A divided Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked same-day voter registrations in North Carolina, letting the state’s new voting restrictions — considered among the nation's most stringent — go into effect.
The court, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting, granted a last-minute request by state officials seeking to block an appeals court ruling that suspended parts of a new state voting law.
The state objected to the conclusion by the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that same-day registration should be restored and provisional voting reinstated for voters casting ballots outside their normal precincts.
The high court's action means the appeals court's decision will not go into effect and the two provisions will be unavailable to voters in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
The Supreme Court's order did not indicate how many justices voted to grant the stay.
In her dissent, Ginsburg noted that North Carolina enacted the new law after the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision issued in June 2013, struck down a key part of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The act was landmark legislation designed to protect minority voting rights and increase the number of minority candidates an era when Jim Crow laws remained on the books in parts of the segregated South.
She wrote that North Carolina's "heavy reliance" in its court filings on high African-American turnout in the 2014 primary elections was of limited significance, in part because one of the three open congressional seats is a majority-nonwhite district.
The law was passed by the state's Republican-led legislature in 2013, and the American Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit against the parts of the state’s law soon after.
The state's Nov. 4 elections include a closely contested U.S. Senate race that could be key in deciding whether Republicans gain control of the chamber.
Expressing disappointment that the Supreme Court allowed to take effect what it termed a "massive voter suppression law," the North Carolina NAACP said that black voters there had for years relied on same-day registration and provisional ballots.
"Eliminating these measures will cause irreparable harm of denying citizens their right to vote in the November election — a right that, once lost, can never be recovered," Reverend William Barber, president of the state NAACP, said in a statement.
The elderly, the poor and the young are also seen as affected by the decision.
The State Board of Elections reminded voters that the deadline to register is now on Friday and advised that the more than 4 million voter guides mailed to residents are accurate.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, hailed the ruling on what he termed a "popular and common sense" measure.
North Carolina became the first state to tighten voting laws after the Supreme Court's contentious decision to strike down the part of the Voting Rights Act that determined which jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices were required to obtain Justice Department approval before changing their voting laws. The state's changes include eliminating same-day registration, cutting early voting by seven days, doing away with early registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and accepting only certain forms of photo identification.
Al Jazeera and Reuters