Race, Shelby County, and the Voter Information Verification Act in North Carolina
Florida State University Law Review
Michael C. Herron & Daniel A. Smith
Shortly after the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the State of North Carolina enacted an omnibus piece of elec-tion-reform legislation known as the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA). Prior to Shelby, portions of North Carolina were covered jurisdictions per the VRA’s sections 4 and 5—meaning that they had to seek federal preclearance for changes to their election proce-dures—and this motivates our assessment of whether VIVA’s many alterations to North Carolina’s election procedures are race-neutral. We show that in presidential elections in North Carolina black early voters have cast their ballots disproportionately in the first week of early voting, which was eliminated by VIVA; that blacks disproportionately have registered to vote during early voting and in the immediate run-up to Election Day, something VIVA now prohibits; that registered voters in the state who lack two VIVA-acceptable forms of voter identification, driver’s licenses and non-operator identification cards, are disproportionately black; that VIVA’s identification dispensation for voters at least seventy years old disproportionately benefits white registered voters; and, that preregistered sixteen and seventeen year old voters in North Carolina, a category of registrants that VIVA prohibits, are disproportionately black. These results illustrate how VIVA will have a disparate effect on black voters in North Carolina.
Today, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted Plaintiffs-Appellants’ appeal in Arcia v. Detzner, No. 12-15738-EE.
The opinion is Arcia v. Detzner 11th Cir. Opinion.
I served as the expert for the Arcia plaintiffs. My expert report is available here.
Here are some excerpts from the majority’s decision:
We reject Secretary Detzner’s attempts to have us decide today whether both the General Removal Provision and the 90 Day Provision allow for removals of non-citizens. Certainly an interpretation of the General Removal Provision that prevents Florida from removing non-citizens would raise constitutional concerns regarding Congress’s power to determine the qualifications of eligible voters in federal elections. Cf. Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 2247, 2257 (2013) (“Arizona is correct that the Elections Clause empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them.”). We are not convinced, however, that the Secretary’s perceived need for an equitable exception in the General Removal Provision also requires us to find the same exception in the 90 Day Provision
In closing, we emphasize that our interpretation of the 90 Day Provision [of the NRVA] does not in any way handcuff a state from using its resources to ensure that non-citizens are not listed in the voter rolls. The 90 Day Provision by its terms only applies to programs which “systematically” remove the names of ineligible voters. As a result, the 90 Day Provision would not bar a state from investigating potential non-citizens and removing them on the basis of individualized information, even within the 90-day window. All that the 90 Day Provision prohibits is a program whose purpose is to “systematically remove the names of ineligible voters” from the voter rolls within the last 90 days before a federal election. 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A).