769 F.3d 224 (4th Cir. 2014), 14-1845, League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. State of North Carolina

Docket Nº:14-1845, 14-1856, 14-1859
Citation:769 F.3d 224
Opinion Judge:WYNN, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF NORTH CAROLINA; A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE; UNIFOUR ONESTOP COLLABORATIVE; COMMON CAUSE NORTH CAROLINA; GOLDIE WELLS; KAY BRANDON; OCTAVIA RAINEY; SARA STOHLER; HUGH STOHLER, Plaintiffs, and LOUIS M. DUKE; CHARLES M. GRAY; ASGOD BARRANTES; JOSUE E. BERDUO; BRIAN M. MILLER; NANCY J. LUND; BECKY HURLEY MOCK; MARY-WREN RITC
Attorney:Allison Jean Riggs, SOUTHERN COALITION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, Durham, North Carolina; Penda Denise Hair, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, Washington, D.C.; Marc Erik Elias, PERKINS COIE LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Alexander McClure Peters, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina...
Judge Panel:Before MOTZ, WYNN, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges. Judge Wynn wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge Floyd joined. Judge Motz wrote a dissenting opinion. DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge, dissenting:
Case Date:October 01, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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769 F.3d 224 (4th Cir. 2014)

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF NORTH CAROLINA; A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE; UNIFOUR ONESTOP COLLABORATIVE; COMMON CAUSE NORTH CAROLINA; GOLDIE WELLS; KAY BRANDON; OCTAVIA RAINEY; SARA STOHLER; HUGH STOHLER, Plaintiffs, and LOUIS M. DUKE; CHARLES M. GRAY; ASGOD BARRANTES; JOSUE E. BERDUO; BRIAN M. MILLER; NANCY J. LUND; BECKY HURLEY MOCK; MARY-WREN RITCHIE; LYNNE M. WALTER; EBONY N. WEST, Intervenors/Plaintiffs -- Appellants,

v.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA; JOSHUA B. HOWARD, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; RHONDA K. AMOROSO, in her official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; JOSHUA D. MALCOLM, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; PAUL J. FOLEY, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; MAJA KRICKER, in her official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; PATRICK L. MCCRORY, in his official capacity as Governor of the state of North Carolina, Defendants -- Appellees. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Amicus Curiae, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE AT NYU SCHOOL OF LAW, Amicus Supporting Appellants, JUDICIAL WATCH, INCORPORATED; ALLIED EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION; CHRISTINA KELLEY GALLEGOS-MERRILL, Amici Supporting Appellees. NORTH CAROLINA STATE CONFERENCE OF BRANCHES OF THE NAACP; ROSANELL EATON; EMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH; BETHEL A. BAPTIST CHURCH; COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH; CLINTON TABERNACLE AME ZION CHURCH; BARBEE'S CHAPEL MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, INC.; ARMENTA EATON; CAROLYN COLEMAN; JOCELYN FERGUSON-KELLY; FAITH JACKSON; MARY PERRY; MARIA TERESA UNGER PALMER, Plaintiffs -- Appellants, and NEW OXLEY HILL BAPTIST CHURCH; BAHEEYAH MADANY; JOHN DOE 1; JANE DOE 1; JOHN DOE 2; JANE DOE 2; JOHN DOE 3; JANE DOE 3, Plaintiffs,

v.

PATRICK L. MCCRORY, in his official capacity as Governor of the state of North Carolina; JOSHUA B. HOWARD, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; RHONDA K. AMOROSO, in her official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; JOSHUA D. MALCOLM, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; PAUL J. FOLEY, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; MAJA KRICKER, in her official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections, Defendants -- Appellees. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Amicus Curiae, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE AT NYU SCHOOL OF LAW, Amicus Supporting Appellants, JUDICIAL WATCH, INCORPORATED; ALLIED EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION; CHRISTINA KELLEY GALLEGOS-MERRILL, Amici Supporting Appellees. LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF NORTH CAROLINA; A. PHILIP RANDOLPH INSTITUTE; UNIFOUR ONESTOP COLLABORATIVE; COMMON CAUSE NORTH CAROLINA; GOLDIE WELLS; OCTAVIA RAINEY; HUGH STOHLER; KAY BRANDON; SARA STOHLER, Plaintiffs -- Appellants, and LOUIS M. DUKE; CHARLES M. GRAY; ASGOD BARRANTES; JOSUE E. BERDUO; BRIAN M. MILLER; NANCY J. LUND; BECKY HURLEY MOCK; MARY-WREN RITCHIE; LYNNE M. WALTER; EBONY N. WEST, Intervenors/Plaintiffs,

v.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA; JOSHUA B. HOWARD, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; RHONDA K. AMOROSO, in her official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; JOSHUA D. MALCOLM, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; PAUL J. FOLEY, in his official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; MAJA KRICKER, in her official capacity as a member of the State Board of Elections; PATRICK L. MCCRORY, in his official capacity as Governor of the state of North Carolina, Defendants -- Appellees. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Amicus Curiae, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE AT NYU SCHOOL OF LAW, Amicus Supporting Appellants, JUDICIAL WATCH, INCORPORATED; ALLIED EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION; CHRISTINA KELLEY GALLEGOS-MERRILL, Amici Supporting Appellees

Nos. 14-1845, 14-1856, 14-1859

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 1, 2014

Argued September 25, 2014

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Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. (1:13-cv-00658-TDS-JEP; 1:13-cv-00861-TDS-JEP; 1:13-cv-00660-TDS-JEP). Thomas D. Schroeder, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Allison Jean Riggs, SOUTHERN COALITION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, Durham, North Carolina; Penda Denise Hair, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, Washington, D.C.; Marc Erik Elias, PERKINS COIE LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

Alexander McClure Peters, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina; Thomas A. Farr, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, P.C., Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellees.

Holly Aiyisha Thomas, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Amicus United States of America.

ON BRIEF:

Anita S. Earls, George E. Eppsteiner, SOUTHERN COALITION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, Durham, North Carolina; Dale Ho, Julie A. Ebenstein, Sean Young, New York, New York, Laughlin McDonald, ACLU VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT, Atlanta, Georgia; Christopher Brook, ACLU OF NORTH CAROLINA LEGAL FOUNDATION, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant League of Women Voters of North Carolina.

Elisabeth C. Frost, Washington, D.C., Joshua L. Kaul, PERKINS COIE LLP, Madison, Wisconsin; Edwin M. Speas, Jr., John W. O'Hale, Caroline P. Mackie, POYNER SPRUILL LLP, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant Louis M. Duke.

Edward A. Hailes, Jr., Denise D. Lieberman, Donita Judge, Caitlin Swain, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT, Washington, D.C.; Irving Joyner, Cary, North Carolina; Adam Stein, TIN FULTON WALKER & OWEN, PLLC, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Daniel T. Donovan, Susan M. Davies, Bridget K. O'Connor, K. Winn Allen, Kim Knudson, Jodi Wu, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant North Carolina State Conference of Branches of the NAACP.

Robert C. Stephens, OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR OF NORTH CAROLINA, Raleigh, North Carolina; Karl S. Bowers, Jr., BOWERS LAW OFFICE LLC, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellee Governor Patrick L. McCrory.

Katherine A. Murphy, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina; Phillip J. Strach, Michael D. McKnight, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, P.C., Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellees State of North Carolina and North Carolina State Board of Election.

Molly J. Moran, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Diana K. Flynn, Civil Rights Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; Ripley Rand, United States Attorney, Greensboro, North Carolina, Gill P. Beck, Special Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Asheville, North Carolina, for Amicus United States of America.

Samuel Brooke, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER, Montgomery, Alabama; Michael C. Li, Jennifer L. Clark, Tomas Lopez, THE BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE AT N.Y.U. SCHOOL OF LAW, New York, New York, for Amicus The Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U School of Law.

Chris Fedeli, JUDICIAL WATCH, INC., Washington, D.C.; H. Christopher Coates, LAW OFFICE OF H. CHRISTOPHER COATES, Charleston, South Carolina; Bradley J. Schlozman, HINKLE LAW FIRM LLC, Wichita, Kansas; Gene B. Johnson, JOHNSON LAW FIRM, P.A., Arden, North Carolina, for Amici Judicial Watch, Incorporated, Allied Educational Foundation, and Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill.

Before MOTZ, WYNN, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges. Judge Wynn wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge Floyd joined. Judge Motz wrote a dissenting opinion.

OPINION

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WYNN, Circuit Judge:

The right to vote is fundamental. " No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined." Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481 (1964). And a tight timeframe before an election does not diminish that right.

" In decision after decision, [the Supreme] Court has made clear that a citizen has a constitutionally protected right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the jurisdiction." Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 336, 92 S.Ct. 995, 31 L.Ed.2d 274 (1972). Congress sought to further ensure equal access to the ballot box by passing the Voting Rights Act, which was aimed at preventing " an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred representatives." Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 47, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986).

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court lifted certain Voting Rights Act restrictions that had long prevented jurisdictions like North Carolina from passing laws that would deny minorities equal access. See Shelby Cnty., Ala. v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612, 186 L.Ed.2d 651 (2013). The very next day, North Carolina began pursuing sweeping voting reform--House Bill 589--which is at the heart of this appeal.

With House Bill 589, North Carolina imposed strict voter identification requirements, cut a week off of early voting, prohibited local election boards from keeping the polls open on the final Saturday afternoon before elections, eliminated same-day voter registration, opened up precincts to " challengers," eliminated pre-registration of sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds in high schools, and barred votes cast in the wrong precinct from being counted at all.

In response, various Plaintiffs and the United States Government sued North Carolina, alleging that House Bill 589 violates equal protection provisions of the United States Constitution as well as the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs sought to prevent

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House Bill 589 from taking effect by asking...

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