Court opens door to voiding N. Carolina Voter ID amendment

Aug 19, 2022, 12:22 PM | Updated: 12:44 pm
FILE - Voters are assisted at a polling location at the South Regional Library in Durham, N.C., on ...

FILE - Voters are assisted at a polling location at the South Regional Library in Durham, N.C., on Nov. 3, 2020. North Carolina’s highest court found problems Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, with the way that legislators advanced a voter identification mandate approved by citizens on the 2018 ballot, but the justices stopped short of striking it down. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s highest court opened the door Friday to nullifying a voter ID mandate approved by citizens in 2018 because the lawmakers who put it on the ballot were elected from districts tainted by illegal racial bias.

However, the North Carolina Supreme Court stopped short of striking down the voter ID requirement and another constitutional amendment that limited income tax rates, ruling that a lower court must gather more evidence on the measures before tossing them out.

Voter identification is not currently required in North Carolina, because it’s held up in separate litigation regarding state voter laws. Friday’s ruling doesn’t alter that situation.

The long-awaited ruling, decided 4-3 by the court’s Democratic majority, is a victory for the state NAACP, which sued Republican legislative leaders. It undoes a state appeals court ruling that upheld the amendments, and it sends the case back to Wake County Judge G. Bryan Collins, Jr., who previously struck down the amendments.

Friday’s ruling decried that the Republican-controlled legislature proceeded with putting the constitutional amendments on the ballot despite the fact that more than two dozen districts had been found to be tainted by illegal racial bias.

Writing for the majority, Associate Justice Anita Earls noted that “what makes this case so unique is that the General Assembly, acting with the knowledge that twenty-eight of its districts were unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered and that more than two-thirds of all legislative districts needed to be redrawn to achieve compliance with the Equal Protection Clause, chose to initiate the process of amending the state constitution.”

However, the opinion said that before taking a step as serious as undoing constitutional amendments approved by voters, the trial court must gather more evidence on whether leaving the amendments in place would allow improperly elected legislators to escape accountability, further exclude voters from the democratic process or amount to continued discrimination.

In a dissent, Associate Justice Phil Berger wrote that the ruling by the court’s Democratic majority “unilaterally reassigns constitutional duties and declares that the will of the judges is superior to the will of the people of North Carolina.”

Federal courts had declared that nearly 30 districts used in 2016 elections were unlawful racial gerrymanders. Ultimately over 100 of the 170 General Assembly seats had to be redrawn. Judges had permitted lawmakers elected in 2016 to serve in the General Assembly for the next two-year session. Still, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said that this edition of the legislature was illegally constituted, so the amendment was unlawfully on the ballot and should be canceled.

In 2020, a split state Court of Appeals panel declared that such a threshold for blocking legislative action would cause chaos and confusion by allowing anyone to challenge any conventional legislation approved by a majority of lawmakers whose districts were struck down. The appeals court overturned Collins’ 2019 ruling that struck down the amendments and found the General Assembly had exceeded its authority to place the referenda.

The state NAACP hailed Friday’s ruling as limiting an improperly elected legislature’s ability to change the state constitution.

“Rigging elections by trampling on the rights of Black voters has consequences. No legislature has the right to use racially gerrymandered maps — infecting more than 2/3 of the districts of this state — to steal power from the people to change our state’s constitution,” said state NAACP President Deborah Maxwell in a statement.

The NAACP sought narrow relief – that a General Assembly elected from illegally distorted boundaries lose its ability to propose constitutional referenda. Unlike legislation, it argued, a referendum needs support from three-fifths of the members of each legislative chamber to go on the ballot and isn’t subject to gubernatorial veto.

Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore issued a statement arguing that Friday’s ruling was a political decision.

“This party-line ruling is in direct contradiction to the rule of law and the will of the voters. The people of North Carolina will not stand for the blatant judicial activism and misconduct that has seized our state’s highest court, and neither will I,” Moore said.

Friday’s decision further intensifies sharp differences on the court and should bring greater focus on two seats on the statewide ballot this fall. Both are currently held by Democrats, so Republicans need to win one of them to regain a majority.

Friday’s ruling didn’t block regular state laws that require simple majorities and are subject to a governor’s veto. GOP legislators have passed other regular laws lowering taxes and requiring photo identification to vote.

A rule-making law passed in 2018 after the voter ID amendment was approved sought to implement the mandate. Friday’s ruling doesn’t cancel that law. But it remains unenforceable pending two other lawsuits — one federal and one state — challenging current voter ID rules.

A majority on a three-judge panel of trial judges struck down those rules in September, saying the law was rushed through the General Assembly and still intentionally discriminates against Black voters.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, watches through binoculars as Russian Defense Mini...
Associated Press

What’s Putin thinking? Tough to know for nuclear analysts

PARIS (AP) — Will President Vladimir Putin pull the nuclear trigger? For Kremlin watchers trying to figure out whether the Russian leader’s nuclear threats are just bluffs, there is no more pressing — or tough — question. For now, analysts cautiously suggest that the risk of Putin using the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal still seems […]
1 day ago
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) misses a catch during the first half of an NFL fo...
Associated Press

Analysis: NFL isn’t passing the eye test on head injuries

What happened in Tampa was the last thing the NFL, its players and its fanbase needed three days after Tua Tagovailoa’s horrifying head injury called into question the league’s commitment to curbing concussions. Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate sat out the second half of Sunday night’s 41-31 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs with a […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Iran says it launched test ‘tug’ into suborbital space

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state media said Tuesday the government has launched a space tug capable of shifting satellites between orbits. State TV said the Saman test spacecraft was built by the country’s Space Research Center and launched Monday by the Defense Ministry. Hassan Salarieh, chief of the Islamic Republic’s space agency, told state […]
1 day ago
FILE - A bust of Alfred Nobel on display at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monda...
Associated Press

Nobel panel to announce winner of physics prize

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The winner, or winners, of the Nobel Prize in physics will be announced Tuesday at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. While physicists often tackle problems that appear at first glance to be far removed from everyday concerns — tiny particles and the vast mysteries of space and time — […]
1 day ago
In this undated surveillance image released by the Stockton Police Department, a grainy still image...
Associated Press

Police: 6 California killings may be work of serial killer

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Ballistics tests have linked the fatal shootings of six men and the wounding of one woman in California — all potentially at the hands of a serial killer — in crimes going back more than a year, police said. Authorities last week announced that five men in Stockton had been slain […]
1 day ago
A currency trader walks by the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left,...
Associated Press

Asian shares rise after ‘relief rally’ on Wall Street

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares rose Tuesday, encouraged by a rally in U.S. shares after some weak economic data raised hopes that the Federal Reserve might ease away from aggressive interest rate hikes. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 2.8% in afternoon trading to 26,959.25. South Korea’s Kospi gained 2.5% to 2,209.98. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Court opens door to voiding N. Carolina Voter ID amendment