WASHINGTON (AP/WNCN) — The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Republican lawmakers in North Carolina a victory in an ongoing battle over the state’s latest photo ID voting bill.
The 8-1 decision does not end the more than three-year dispute over the voter ID law, which is currently not in effect and has been challenged in both state and federal courts.
The decision only means that Republican Legislative Leaders can intervene in the federal lawsuit to defend the law.
“It’s great when you have an argument that you feel solid about, but it’s even better when the US Supreme Court says you know what you were right,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R).
A lower court had ruled that the interests of the legislature were already adequately represented by the state’s Attorney General, Democrat Josh Stein.
Judge Neil Gorsuch wrote: “Through the General Assembly, the people of North Carolina have authorized the leaders of their legislature to defend duly enacted state statutes against constitutional challenges. Normally, a federal court must respect that kind of sovereign decision and not presume anything against it.”
Judge Sonia Sotomayor disagreed.
In response to today’s statement, Deborah Maxwell, President of the North Carolina NAACP, also weighed in.
“We are disappointed with the majority opinion and agree with Judge Sotomayor’s objection. However, the NC NAACP welcomes the opportunity to vigorously pursue our challenge to this discriminatory law.”
She continued, “In fact, the NC NAACP is no stranger to the long struggle for justice and the right to vote. Today we reiterate our call for all North Carolinians to join us. We know that there is no victory without a fight and it is incumbent on all of us to fight for full freedom of choice in every election and for the life of our democracy.”
North Carolina voters amended the state constitution in 2018 to include a voter ID mandate. The legislature then passed the law at issue in the dispute to implement the change. The law requires voters to show photo ID to vote — whether it’s a driver’s license, passport, or certain student and local government IDs.
Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the measure, but lawmakers overrode his veto to pass the law. The state NAACP and several local chapters immediately sued in federal court to stop enforcing the law, arguing that it discriminated against black and Hispanic voters in violation of the Constitution and the Federal Voting Rights Act.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Speaker Phil Berger, both Republicans, wanted to intervene in the federal court process to defend the law alongside state attorneys and said Stein would not adequately fight for the law.
“I think what the Supreme Court is telling us is what we have felt all along, and that is that the people of the state of North Carolina deserve to have the laws their elected bodies passed defended in court and just because we end up meeting with someone in a certain position in the state government, that person should not be able to thwart the will of the people as represented by their elected representatives and members of the Senate,” said Berger.
Attorney General Josh Stein’s office issued the following statement regarding the verdict:
“We are still reviewing the court’s decision. Our office has and will continue to vigorously defend state law and has not opposed legislators’ attempts to join that defense.”
In a statement, Governor Cooper said:
“Voting is a fundamental right and people should not have to go through unnecessary hurdles to cast their vote. Courts have ruled that several electoral changes implemented by Republicans were discriminatory and unconstitutional, and the legislation at issue in this case is another example.”
But a federal judge said no, that lawmakers’ interests would be adequately defended by attorneys in Stein’s agency. A three-judge federal appeals court ruled for the legislature before the full federal appeals court overturned the decision, ruling 9 to 6 that the legislature should not be allowed to intervene.
As for the law itself, it was initially blocked by the judge in the case, who said it was “unduly motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent.” But the three-member appeals panel overturned her decision and sent it back to the US District Court, where a trial has not yet begun.
In lawsuits in state courts, judges have struck down the law as tainted with racial bias. The North Carolina Supreme Court has said it will take up the case, but has not set a hearing date.
Separately, North Carolina’s highest court has already heard arguments in a lawsuit over whether the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID should have been allowed in the November 2018 election in the first place. A state judge had ruled that the GOP-controlled legislature did not have the authority to put the amendment and another to a vote because lawmakers had been elected from racially biased counties two years earlier. That decision was later overturned on appeal before going to the state’s highest court.
https://www.cbs17.com/news/political-news/supreme-court-rules-for-nc-gop-lawmakers-in-voter-id-case/ Supreme Court rules for NC GOP legislators in voter identification case