Voters cast their ballots at Clayton Fire Station in downtown Clayton, N.C. on May 6, 2014.
Chris Seward/The News & Observer/AP

Court blocks key parts of North Carolina voting law


This story has been updated from an earlier version.

A federal appeals court put a hold Wednesday on two key provisions of North Carolina’s sweeping and restrictive voting law, but left other parts in place.

Voting rights advocates challenging the law see the ruling as a win.

“This is a victory for voters in the state of North Carolina,” Allison Riggs, a lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a statement. “The court has rebuked attempts to undermine voter participation.”

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. “I have instructed our attorneys to appeal to the Supreme Court so that the two provisions rejected today can apply in the future and protect the integrity of our elections,” McCrory said in a statement.

By a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel blocked the law’s elimination of same-day voter registration, and its ban on counting out-of-precinct ballots. It green-lighted the law’s elimination of a week of early voting, as well as several other provisions, including the elimination of a popular “pre-registration” program for high-school students. Barring a reversal, those planks will be in effect for the state’s fall elections, which include a tight U.S. Senate race.

Minorities are more likely than whites to use same-day registration, early voting, and pre-registration, according to evidence contained in briefs filed by the law’s challengers.

A district court judge had ruled that the entire law could go into effect this year. A full trial on the law, passed last year by state Republicans after the Supreme Court’s weakening of the Voting Rights Act, is scheduled for next year.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the appeals court also said the “soft rollout” of the law’s voter ID provision could remain in effect. Under the law, voter ID isn’t needed until 2016. But the state has instructed poll workers to ask voters whether they have ID, but not stop them from voting if they don’t. Voting rights advocates have said that procedure caused confusion when used in primary elections earlier this year.

The North Carolina law is one of four restrictive voting measures still pending before the courts, any of which could be taken up by the Supreme Court.