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Challenge to Voter ID Remains Alive In Battleground State

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


The U.S. Supreme Court gave Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina a win back in June in a fight over the state’s latest photo identification voting law.

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ended the three-year-plus dispute over the voter ID law and held that legislative leaders in North Carolina can intervene in the federal case to defend the law.

Now, the state supreme court voted 4-3 and agreed with a central argument the North Carolina NAACP made in its challenge to the constitutional amendments, keeping alive the case against voter ID.

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“The supreme court’s Democratic majority wrote that proposed constitutional amendments aren’t automatically considered valid if they are proposed and put on the ballot by legislators elected from unlawful districts. The court’s three Republicans dissented,” Indy Week reported.

“The case will go back to the trial court for another hearing because the Democratic majority said there are still questions that need to be answered to determine whether the constitutional amendments stick. The case dates to 2018 when the legislature voted to put six proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, including an amendment that required photo ID for in-person voting and an amendment reducing the state’s 10 percent cap on personal and corporate income taxes to 7 percent,” the outlet added.

Republican lawmakers say the state’s Democratic Attorney General John Stein is not properly defending the law from legal challenges brought by the NAACP and other groups who claim it violates the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

Last September, a North Carolina three-judge panel blocked the state’s photo voter ID law, ruling that it “was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.”

The law, S.B. 824, requires voters to present a photo ID in order to vote.

In a 2-1 ruling, two Wake County Superior Court judges held that the law violates the state’s constitution “because it was adopted with a discriminatory purpose.”

“North Carolina’s Voter ID law was enacted with the unconstitutional intent to discriminate against African American voters,” the majority wrote.

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S.B. 824 required voters in North Carolina to present photo ID, including driver’s licenses, military IDs, and other forms of identification.

Judge Nathaniel Poovey dissented, claiming “not one scintilla of evidence was introduced during this trial that any legislator acted with racially discriminatory intent.”

Poovey said plaintiffs relied on the “past history of other lawmakers and used an extremely broad brush to paint the 2018 General Assembly with the same toxic paint. The majority opinion, in this case, attempts to weave together the speculations and conjectures that Plaintiffs put forward as circumstantial evidence of discriminatory intent behind Session Law 2018-144.”

Poovey noted that plaintiffs “failed to meet their initial burden” to prove the legislature “acted with a racially discriminatory intent.”

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of counting undated mail-in ballots in a contested Pennsylvania local election.

The 6-3 ruling could create broader implications for close races in November’s crucial midterm elections.

“Over the objection of three justices, the Court restored a federal appeals court ruling that said disqualifying ballots received on time but lacking a handwritten date on the return envelope would violate federal voting rights,” ABC News reported. “Pennsylvania state law requires that voters include a date next to the signature, even though mail ballots are typically postmarked and dated again by election officials when they are received. The appeals court concluded the absence of the handwritten date was an immaterial error.”

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“The Supreme Court did not elaborate on its decision to allow counting to proceed, and it is not binding precedent. But it does suggest that a majority of justices support the view that discarding ballots over small administrative errors or omissions would harm the franchise,” the report added.

In the dissent, conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch wrote they would have stayed the appeals court ruling in order to review the merits of the dispute, which he said “could well affect the outcome of the fall elections.”

Alito wrote that he believes the Third Circuit opinion is “very likely wrong.”

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