A U.S. appeals court blocked parts of a new North Carolina voter law on Wednesday, ruling just weeks ahead of the November elections that the provisions would disproportionately impact African-American voters.
Reversing a lower court decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that same-day voter registration should be restored. The court also reinstated provisional voting for voters casting ballots outside of their normal precincts.
North Carolina officials said they planned to appeal the 2-1 decision, noting that more than 4 million voter guides already have been distributed with contradictory instructions.
“We are concerned that changes so close to the election may contribute to voter confusion,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections.
The state's Republican-led legislature in 2013 shortened North Carolina's early-voting period by seven days, ended same-day registration, banned provisional ballots cast outside the correct precinct from being counted and ended a program allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
The appellate court upheld several challenged provisions of the law, including the shortened early-voting period and the elimination of the pre-registration period for teenagers, noting that opponents had not met the standard needed for a court injunction.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins, writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)