A divided US Supreme Court refused Wednesday to reinstate North Carolina's voter identification requirement and keep just 10 days of early in-person voting. The decision—a victory for voting rights groups and President Obama's Justice Department—means voters won't have to show one of several qualifying photo IDs when casting ballots in the presidential battleground state. Early voting also reverts to 17 days, to begin Oct. 20. The court rejected a request by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials to delay a lower court ruling that found the state law was tainted by racial discrimination.
"Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians will now be able to vote without barriers," Allison Riggs, an attorney representing some of the groups and voters who originally sued over the 2013 law, said in a release. The high court was divided 4-4 on most of the challenged provisions, with the four more conservative justices supporting the state's bid to enforce them in the upcoming election. The split illustrates again how closely divided the Supreme Court is on voting rights and how the outcome of the presidential election essentially will determine the court's direction, the AP notes. McCrory, who signed the law, said in a statement that North Carolina "has been denied basic voting rights" by the decision and that "four liberal justices" had "blocked North Carolina protections afforded by our sensible voter laws." (Read more North Carolina stories.)