The decree emerged after the Democratic National Committee sued the RNC over its hiring of off-duty sheriff's deputies and police to patrol polling places in minority precincts in the 1981 New Jersey governor's race. The RNC also sent out mailers to registered voters in minority neighborhoods. They added the name of any voter whose mailer was returned as undeliverable to a roster of those to be challenged if they appeared on election day to vote.
As a result of the lawsuit, the RNC agreed the next year not to engage in certain activities and to have others reviewed by a court. But, in 2008, it tried to end the consent decree on the grounds that this placed an obstacle in the way of fighting alleged voter fraud. A U.S. district judge said voter intimidation continues to be a threat that is more important than potential voter fraud. The RNC appealed and lost again.
Study after study has shown that voter impersonation at the polls is less than a minuscule problem. But that has not stopped Republicans from enacting or attempting to enact laws that supposedly deal with this nonexistent matter but actually amount to voter suppression.
While the consent decree remains in place, Rick Hasen, a law professor and author who runs the Election Law Blog, says the court's decision not to review the case has only limited impact:
The ruling prevents the RNC from engaging in certain activities, such as organizing poll challengers, etc. But the ruling only applies to the RNC, and does not stop state parties (such as the Ohio Republican Party) or non-party groups on the Republican side of things (such as True the Vote) from engaging in the same activities. So keeping the ruling in effect likely will not have large consequences in the voting wars.Still, even small victories deserve quiet huzzahs.