In CNN's Lindsey Graham picks side in Trump vs. McConnell divide (cued at 01:51) after a clip of US Senate Majority Whip Richard Durben said in reference to President Biden's speech about voting rights that the president "might have gone a little too far in his rhetoric" former Democratic Senator Al Franken said (in part, my best effort at transcription):

There's no question that what Senate Republicans are trying to do is suppress votes, and... can I give you just a number of examples?

and one example was:

Look, McConnel voted for the voting rights act in 2006! And that included preclearence. This is about preclearance; this is a big part of what this is.

And when they got rid of preclearance after Shelby County, what happened? Boom! (finger snap) In North Carolina, they just wrote the laws that... a Fourth Circuit (justice? court?) said 'targeted blacks with almost surgical precision'.

There is no question that the Republican Party is trying to tamp down, suppress the vote of people who vote for Democrats, including not just black people, but students, poor people, it's pretty clear what they're doing. And for them to deny that it's just intellectually dishonest, but that's who they are now.

The size of the quote is to maintain some context and ensure we understand what former Senator Franken's own take on the situation is.

Wikipedia's Voting Rights Act of 1965 includes:

A core special provision is the Section 5 preclearance requirement, which prohibits certain jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. attorney general or the U.S. District Court for D.C. that the change does not discriminate against protected minorities.

Question: Which 4th Circuit court or justice said that North Carolina laws "targeted blacks with almost surgical precision" after "they got rid of preclearance after Shelby County"? Which North Carolina laws are being referenced here?


  • I've added the civil-rights tag because there is no specific voting-rights tag (yet).
    – uhoh
    Jan 13, 2022 at 23:55
  • The downvote is for asking a researched and objective politics SE question requiring fact-based answers and receiving two well-received answers?
    – uhoh
    Jan 16, 2022 at 7:09

2 Answers 2


The full court opinion (83 pages) can be found here. It identifies five provisions of a single omnibus election law, 2013 N.C. Sess. Laws 381, which are found to be discriminatory:

  1. a "change in accepted photo IDs is of particular note: the new ID provision retained only those types of photo ID disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African Americans. . . . the district court specifically found that “the removal of public assistance IDs” in particular was “suspect[.]""

  2. a reduction in early voting days,

  3. elimination of same-day voter registration,

  4. elimination of out-of-precinct voting, and

  5. elimination of preregistration.


Regarding your question whether the phrase "surgical precision" is an explicit part of the ruling: it is. See page 11 for the full context:

Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data , the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.

In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.


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