RIGHT OF THE DAY: No voting restrictions that would likely limit minority voting

YOUR RIGHT OF THE DAY: The government may not place restrictions on voting that would likely have the effect of limiting voting by racial minorities. 1Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified at 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a); U.S. Constitution, 14th amendment

Last year, North Carolina changed some of its voting rules. Today, just one month ahead of the November elections, a federal court ruled that two of these changes, eliminating both the ability of voters to register on the same day they vote, and the ability of voters to vote outside their assigned voter precinct, were improper and must not be put into effect at this time.2for those with a legal background, the court agreed to the plaintiffs’ demand for a preliminary injunction The court found that these changes would have a “disproportionate impact” on minority voting, and would thus violate the voting rights of minorities, as found in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The court cited the following from a prior case3Gingles, 478 U.S. at 47 to explain that a violation of the Voting Rights Act means:

“that a certain electoral law, practice, or structure interacts with
social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the
opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their
preferred representatives.”

The court further cited conservative Supreme Court Justice Scalia for an example of this:

“If, for example, a county permitted voter registration
for only three hours one day a week, and that made it
more difficult for blacks to register than whites,
blacks would have less opportunity “to participate in
the political process” than whites, and [the Voting Rights Act]
would therefore be violated . . . .”

 

Basically this means that if a larger percent of black voters use a particular voting procedure more than whites do, the government can’t limit that procedure. The court said the evidence did indeed show that blacks use same-day registration at a higher percentage than whites, and vote out of their precinct at a higher rate than whites. Thus, eliminating these two voting procedures is not OK.

So now North Carolina will have to continue to allow voters to register to vote on the same day they actually vote, and continue to allow voters to vote outside their precinct. For now, at least.4the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court, which could potentially intervene before the election and reverse this decision. We’ll keep you updated, of course.

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