U.S. Supreme Court rejects bid to reinstate North Carolina voting limits

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Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate North Carolina Voter ID Law

WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a bid by North Carolina to reinstate for November's elections several voting restrictions, including a requirement that people show identification at the polls.

The eight-justice court, divided in most part 4-4, rejected a request made by Republican Governor Pat McCrory after an appeals court ruled last month that the 2013 law discriminates against minority voters. Five votes are needed for an emergency request to be granted.

"We're thrilled. Elections in North Carolina this fall are going to be conducted under a fair and nondiscriminatory election law scheme," said Allison Riggs, a lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, one of the civil rights groups that challenged the law.

RELATED: North Carolina voter ID law:

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A pile of government pamphlets explaining North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law sits on table at a polling station as the law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary in Charlotte, North Carolina March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students head to their precinct to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The university provided bus transportation throughout the day to the precinct. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: A lone North Carolina State University student, right, votes in the primaries at the provisional ballot booth at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The Board of Elections will review voter's reasonable impediment form submitted with their provisional ballots to determine if their vote counts. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students stand in line to receive their ballots at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students wait in line to vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The Board of Elections will review voter's reasonable impediment form submitted with their provisional ballots to determine if their vote counts. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images )
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images) *** Local Caption
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University students vote in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 15: North Carolina State University senior Jonathan Powell reviews sample ballots before voting in the primaries at Pullen Community Center on March 15, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The North Carolina primaries is the state's first use of the voter ID law, which excludes student ID cards. Wake County was among the highest use of provisional ballots, where those voters had home addresses on or near campuses. The Board of Elections will review voter's reasonable impediment form submitted with their provisional ballots to determine if their vote counts. The state's voter ID law is still being argued in federal court. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
A worker carries a sign that will be displayed at a polling place that will inform voters of the new voter ID law that goes into effect in 2016 at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina November 3, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Am election worker checks a voter's drivers license as North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary election at a polling place in Charlotte, North Carolina March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane
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The U.S. Justice Department, which has also been involved in fighting the law, did not immediately comment on the decision.

McCrory said in a statement that the state "has been denied basic voting rights already granted to more than 30 other states to protect the integrity of one person, one vote through a common-sense voter ID law."

The brief order noted that three of the court's conservatives, including Chief Justice John Roberts, would have allowed the voter identification provision and limits on early voting to be in effect for the election. Justice Clarence Thomas agreed on that point, but was the only justice to say he would have also allowed a requirement blocking pre-registration of 16-year-olds to stay in place.

RELATED: Voter ID laws by state

McCrory's lawyers said the status quo should be maintained so close to the election, citing court precedent in their favor.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on July 29 that the law intentionally discriminated against minority voters. The same court refused to put its decision on hold for the Nov. 8 election.

Critics say such laws, passed in Republican-governed states, make voting harder for minorities such as African-Americans and Hispanics, who tend to support Democrats. Backers say the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud.

The court is currently short one justice following the death of conservative Antonin Scalia in February, which likely deprived the conservative justices of the fifth vote they needed to grant the request.

The high court could yet be asked to weigh in on other voting restrictions ahead of the election, with several cases pending in lower courts. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

RELATED: RCP poll average for North Carolina - Clinton vs. Trump

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