Nuns tour 4It’s now been three days since the U.S. Supreme Court received the briefing it requested from the parties in the state’s voting rights challenge. And while attorneys have continued to advise the justices on activity here, there’s been no ruling from the high court on the state’s emergency application.

What’s going on?

Election law expert Rick Hasen lays out a few scenarios here.

1. Someone is dissenting, or at least writing something to explain the decision.  In the Ohio case, issued last week, the vote was 5-4 but there was no explanation from either the (conservative) majority or the (liberal) dissenters. Someone may want to say something here, either objecting to or explaining what the Court is doing.

2. The Court decided it wants more information and decided to wait. Today the trial court held a status hearing in the case and, according to a just-filed letter from NC challengers, the state said it would be easy to implement the 4th Circuit’s order. The challengers promise a transcript and no doubt NC will object to this characterization.

3. The Court wants to decide the North Carolina and Wisconsin case together, or perhaps a dissenter wants to reference a potential inconsistent treatment of the Purcell delay issue in the two cases. That would mean waiting until the further briefing came in in the Wisconsin case.


Nuns tour 2Contrary to arguments it made at various stages of the voting rights cases here, the state yesterday told U. S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder that implementing the Fourth Circuit’s order restoring same day registration and out-of-precinct voting would be “simple” — according to this letter to the nation’s high court sent by attorneys for the voting law’s challengers.

The representation came as the parties awaited a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the state’s request that the appeals court order be stayed for the upcoming election, based in part upon claims that restoring same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting would be burdensome.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter recapping a status conference held by Judge Schroeder yesterday:

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UPDATE:  Last night the state submitted a response letter to the Court, saying that although it would have always had to give out-of-precinct voters provisional ballots, it would now have the additional burden of having to count them. The state also said that administering same day registration manually, as it would have to do at this late date under the Fourth Circuit order, was a task election officials had never had to undertake before.  Read the full letter here.



In a 2-1 decision, a federal court in Virginia today rejected part of that state’s congressional map, saying that it amounted to an impermissible racial gerrymander.

Here’s election law expert Rick Hasen on the decision:

The majority ruled that the redistricting involving a majority-minority district violated the equal protection clause as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander (a Shaw v. Reno type claim) because race was the predominant factor in redistricting. The state had defended its packing of minority voters into fewer districts to comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act but the majority did not buy it. From the majority opinion:

For the reasons that follow, we find that Plaintiffs have shown race predominated. We find that the Third Congressional District cannot survive review under the exacting standard of strict scrutiny. While compliance with Section 5 was a compelling interest when the legislature acted, the redistricting plan was not narrowly tailored to further that interest. Accordingly, we are compelled to hold that the challenged Third Congressional District violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The dissenting judge believed that political considerations, not race, predominated in the redistricting.

What happens next? As Think Progress notes, any new redistricting will have to be signed by the new Democratic governor.

If Virginia does appeal to the Supreme Court, I expect the case will be held for the Alabama redistricting cases, which raise virtually the same issue.

Read the court’s decision here.


The judge in two of the same-sex marriage cases pending in North Carolina  issued an order this afternoon requiring the parties to file reports within 10 days, detailing how the court should proceed in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review a Fourth Circuit decision rejecting Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Saying that it appeared that the couples challenging the state’s marriage ban were entitled to a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of that ban, U.S. District Judge William  L. Osteen Jr. asked the parties in Fisher-Borne v. Smith and Gerber v. Cooper to provide him with additional information needed to bring the cases to a close:

In light of the foregoing, this court orders that the parties file a status report, without argument, detailing the following matters: (1) whether the parties agree with this court’s suggestion as to the effect of [the Fourth Circuit decision] on this case as set out herein; (2) whether any discovery is required as to either of these cases prior to proceeding to summary judgment; (3) what issues remain for resolution by this court in each of these cases with respect to the challenged adoption laws; and (4) what the parties suggest in terms of additional briefing on any remaining issues.

Two other same-sex marriage cases are pending in federal court here:

General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper, filed in federal court in Charlotte on behalf of same-sex couples and four national religious denominations – the United Church of Christ, the Alliance of Baptists, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and the Central Conference of American Rabbis – in addition to Episcopalian, Jewish and Baptist clergy from across North Carolina. The same-sex couples are seeking the freedom to marry and the clergy are seeking the religious freedom to perform wedding ceremonies for such couples.

McCrory v. Cooper, filed in March in federal court in Asheville by two women who’ve been together for more than 25 years and were legally married in New York in 2013.

No court action has occurred in those cases yet following today’s Supreme Court rulings.

Tomorrow morning, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Equality North Carolina, and plaintiffs challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban will speak at a press conference in Raleigh about what the U.S. Supreme Court decision means for same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in North Carolina.

The press conference will be held at 10 a.m. at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, 324 S Harrington St, Raleigh, NC 27603




Nuns tour 4They’ve been in Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Greenville, but there’s still time to catch the “Nuns on the Bus” get-out-the-vote tour today or tomorrow if you’re in Asheville or Charlotte.

To learn more about the tour, read here, or listen to NOTB Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell in her radio interview with Policy Watch’s Chris Fitzsimon here.

Here’s where the bus is heading today and tomorrow:

Nuns tour


Nuns on the bus