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North Carolina High Court Tosses Out State Voter ID Law

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


North Carolina’s highest court on Friday struck down a law that state lawmakers hoped would improve ballot integrity. The state Supreme Court ruled that a voter ID requirement had a “racially discriminatory purpose” against black voters.

“The provisions enacted … were formulated with an impermissible intent to discriminate against African American voters in violation of the North Carolina Constitution,” Associate Justice Anita Earls wrote in the 89-page ruling seen by the Washington Post.

The report noted that Senate Bill 824 required all voters to show one of a couple of specific forms of photo ID, which the state Supreme Court claimed was somehow passed to disenfranchise black voters.

Axios noted further:

In its ruling in Holmes v. Moore, the court ruled that while the law appeared neutral on its face, the Republican majority “targeted voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party.”

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Senate Bill 824 was passed in 2018 by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature even after its Democratic governor vetoed it.

It was passed during a lame-duck session before the party lost its supermajority.

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s GOP legislature has an upcoming election-related case at the U.S. Supreme Court, which will begin in early December. Observers say it could upend the 2024 presidential race.

“Backed by Republican leaders at the N.C. General Assembly, the crux of the argument is that they and all other state legislators should have much broader power to write election laws, with courts mostly not allowed to stop them by ruling their actions unconstitutional. They’ve been tight-lipped about the case since filing it this spring, mostly preferring to avoid commenting on it to reporters and instead doing their talking through legal briefs,” the Herland-Sun reported.

“Beyond redistricting the case also has the potential to change how North Carolina and the 49 other states handle everything from early voting and mail-in ballots rules to voter ID, recounts, post-election audits, and anything else that could possibly affect an election,” the outlet added.

The Herald-Sun added:

In recent years under Republican leadership at the General Assembly — and a Democratic majority at the N.C. Supreme Court — a number of political lawsuits have led to state-level cases with huge implications for how elections are conducted.

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Those include gerrymandering cases decided in 2019 and 2022 as well as lawsuits over lawmakers’ ability to amend the constitution to require voter ID and a ban on ex-felons voting after they leave prison — all of which have ended in rulings against the legislature. More cases are pending, including another one over voter ID and one advancing a state-level version of the same legal theory that’s about to be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Moore v. Harper is predicated on who has the constitutional authority to set election policy – seven state Supreme Court justices or 170 state legislators,” Lauren Horsch, a spokeswoman for Berger, said in an email. “The U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause is clear that it’s the state legislatures, but recently state courts have taken it upon themselves to set election policy. In North Carolina, we have a state Supreme Court that has become a legislative body.”

Democrats are out in full force pushing their usual talking point, claiming it could “end democracy.”

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Kathy Feng, who leads the anti-gerrymandering group Common Cause, called it “the case of the century.”

“It is a case that asserts a bizarre and fabricated reading of the United States Constitution … to create a situation where elections are already rigged from the start,” she said.

Eric Holder, a Democrat and former U.S. attorney general under Barack Obama, said it “should keep every American up at night.”

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Michael Luttig, a Republican and retired federal judge who George W. Bush considered nominating to the Supreme Court, recently called it “the single most important case on American democracy” of the last 250 years.

“Activist judges and allied plaintiffs have proved time and time again that they believe state courts have the ultimate say over congressional maps, no matter what the U.S. Constitution says,” N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger said in March when the case began. “We must continue this fight to restore the primacy of the legislature and put an end to these efforts to undermine its constitutional duty.”

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