NC Supreme Court rules 4-3 on voter ID, verbal arguments coming next

The state Supreme Court has decided in another ruling determined along partisan lines that the oral arguments over the constitutionality of North Carolina’s photo voter identification law will be held next month. The justices who are registered as Democrats agreed with attorneys in a 4-3 decision, for minority voters who had asked the state’s highest court in July to move the case along more quickly.

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In a lawsuit filed in December 2018, these voters are plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed moments after the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved a photo ID law. That law has never been administered, according to News Observer.

A trial was held by a panel of judges, and a majority struck down the law in September 2021, saying it intentionally discriminated against Black voters. The justices agreed to hear the case earlier this year, in a similar 4-3 decision, instead of waiting for the intermediate-level Court of Appeals to deliberate first.

In July, it was written by the plaintiffs that an expedited argument date as soon as September would help state officials and voters “prepare for future elections without the risk of voter confusion and disenfranchisement.”

The request was granted, as an order was filed and signed by Senior Associate Justice Robin Hudson, citing: “The great public interest in the subject matter of this case, the importance of the issues to the constitutional jurisprudence of this state, and the need to reach a final resolution on the merits at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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Oral arguments would occur either the week of October 3 or no later than October 18, the order said. So oral arguments now will occur weeks before elections for two of the seats on the Supreme Court currently held by Democrats.

Associate Sam Ervin IV is seeking reelection, while Hudson is retiring. If Republicans win one of the two seats, they would retake a majority on the court in January. For all seven current justices to participate, any final ruling would have to be issued by year’s end. Already, the Democratic majority has issued consequential rulings this year favoring Democrats and their allies.

In a dissent that was supported by the other two registered Republicans on the court, Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote that the “majority expedites the hearing of a case where no jurisprudential reason supports doing.”

No additional relief to the plaintiffs will be provided by speeding up the matter because a permanent injunction by the trial court panel last year means the law remains unenforceable. This is followed by an argument by Republican legislative leaders who were sued and who opposed the expedited scheduling.

If the state Supreme Court upholds the state trial court’s decision, a federal lawsuit challenging the same voter ID law is pending and could become moot.

Last month, the state Supreme Court’s Democratic majority said in another 4-3 ruling, that it was possible a constitutional amendment mandating photo ID and approved by voters in November 2018 could be thrown out because state legislators who put it on the ballot were elected from districts tainted by illegal racial bias.

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