The conservative-majority court granted a bid by Republican legislators in North Carolina to suspend the Jan. 9 order by a federal court panel in Greensboro that gave the Republican-controlled General Assembly until Jan. 24 to come up with a new map for U.S. House of Representatives districts.
Two liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, objected to the high court’s action.
The Supreme Court’s decision to stay the order reduces the chance that the current district lines will be altered ahead of the November mid-term congressional elections. The court offered no reason for its decision.
In case you’re wondering, Ginsburg and Sotomayor did not issue a dissenting opinion.
The Supreme Court may be poised to green-light a controversial Ohio program that removes infrequent voters from the state’s registration lists. During oral arguments Wednesday morning, several justices seemed more concerned with preserving the state’s ability to remove people who had moved or died than they were with protecting eligible voters from being purged from the voter rolls.
The high-stakes legal fight surrounding Ohio’s voter purge program is at the center of a larger battle over access to the ballot. If the court allows Ohio to continue to remove voters based in part on their past failure to cast a ballot, other states will likely follow suit and millions of Americans across the country could find themselves disenfranchised because they have not recently voted. Supporters of the Ohio policy say it’s necessary to prevent voter fraud, but voting rights groups counter that such fraud is exceedingly rare and that the state’s voter purges are both error-prone and unfair, because they punish citizens who choose to exercise a constitutional right not to vote. There is also substantial evidence that the state purges minority voters and those from Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at disproportionately high rates.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave voice to the concerns of voting rights advocates who worry that Ohio’s purge program disproportionately impacts minority voters and impinges on a core constitutional right.
“Can we get to the essence of this case?” she said to Ohio Solicitor General Eric Murphy, who argued for the state. “Your reading [of the NVRA] is that failure to vote is enough evidence to suggest someone has moved.” But, she continued to prod, is that a “reasonable effort” since the process results in disproportionately disenfranchising minority voters?
“All of these impediments result in large numbers of people not voting in certain spots in the state,” Sotomayor noted.
Stotomayor is right, but this looks like at least 6 votes on the wrong side (Breyer gotta Breyer sometimes.)