NCGA Lawyer: Voter ID Decision From SCOTUS Could Come Soon

    Publisher's note: The author of this post is Barry Smith, who is an associate editor for the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.

Appeals Courts issued conflicting decisions on election reforms, so Woodcox thinks justices may issue order quickly

    A top election law adviser to legislative leaders suggests the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts could have a decision fairly quickly on whether to delay an order by an appeals court striking down North Carolina's voter ID law.

    "Considering the issue that we're debating is the Purcell principle in changing rules this close to an election to try to avoid confusion, I would assume this would be an expedited process," Brent Woodcox said. Woodcox, who is redistricting counsel for the General Assembly, also has advised legislative leaders on other election law policy.

    The Purcell principle is a judicial philosophy that has emerged over the last decade under which appellate courts have blocked orders from lower courts that would overturn election laws as the date of an election draws near.

    Last month, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina's contentious voter ID law and four other provisions of a broad election reform law passed in 2013 by the General Assembly. Those provisions include shortening the early voting period, eliminating same day registration during early voting, eliminating out-of-precinct voting, and eliminating an early voter registration for teenagers.

    Earlier this week, Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the 2013 bill into law, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the appeals court's order until the nation's high court could hear an appeal. Roberts has asked attorneys to file written responses by Aug. 25. This year's general election is Nov. 8.

    County election boards have been meeting to develop a revised early voting schedule to comply with the 4th Circuit's order.

    "Obviously, [the justices] have discretion about when they'll answer," Woodcox said. "The last time we asked for a stay, we got an answer in less than a week."

    That stay was granted before Justice Antonin Scalia died earlier this year, changing the ideological balance on the Supreme Court.

    "I think you could see something fairly quickly," Woodcox said. "But I think you'd be reading the tea leaves to try to predict exactly when it'll come down."

    Woodcox said the North Carolina voter ID law is ripe for a Supreme Court ruling since appeals courts have published conflicting opinions on the issue.

    "The 7th Circuit has said one thing; the 4th Circuit has said another," Woodcox said. "Typically, you want the Supreme Court to answer that question before you have elections based on differing opinions."

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