The Supreme Court denied North Carolina's application to stay the mandate of the Fourth Circuit decision that essentially struck down NC's omnibus voting law. The Chief Justice, and Justices Kennedy, Alito would have granted the stay except for the preregistration issue. Justice Thomas would have granted the stay in its entirety. Some brief observations:
First, as I noted here, on a Court that is evenly divided on contentious voting issues, the courts of appeals are essentially courts of last resort. But more importantly, they know that and they are behaving that way. The Fourth Circuit wrote the opinion it did because it knew that its decision was effectively unreviewable as long as no one defected from the liberal bloc.
Second, the fact that the conservative justices would have granted the stay (Justice Thomas in toto, the others everything but the preregistration), tells us a lot about the strength of the application for stay by petitioners (and the strength of the ideological divide on these issues). The application for stay was very strong and obviously attractive to the conservative Justices, presumably the applicant's primary target. The application was addressed to the soft spot in the lower court opinion, including the Fourth Circuit's understanding of intentional discrimination and the manner in which the Fourth Circuit's analysis limited the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County.
Third, there are simply two different ways of thinking about law and political participation in this country. One way of thinking about it appeals to liberals and the other way of thinking about it appeals to conservatives.
Lastly, liberals, particularly liberal academics, depending upon the outcome of the election, may get a chance to not only develop their theories of race and political participation (or of political participation writ large), they may see those theories implemented. It will be interesting to see what the new scholarship on these issues will look like. An example of what I have in mind is this recent paper by Pam Karlan.