North Carolina Supreme Court likely to overturn voter ID ruling


North Carolina’s state Supreme Court seems likely to allow a voter ID law in the state to go into effect, reversing a previous ruling from the same court after a years-long battle.

In 2018, voters approved a constitutional amendment to mandate photo ID, delegating the particularities of the law’s setup to lawmakers. Shortly thereafter, the GOP-controlled legislature passed a law implementing it on a (mostly) party line vote, overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. A sprawling legal battle — which encompassed everything from the implementation law itself to the legislature’s ability to intervene in court cases and the actual constitutionality of the actions of a “gerrymandered” legislature to put the constitutional amendment in front of voters in the first place — soon followed in state and federal court.

These voter ID requirements have never actually been in effect due to the various legal disputes. There are far too many cases to run through in detail, but what was relevant for Wednesday was that the state Supreme Court ruled that the law implementing the voter ID requirements was itself unconstitutional in a 4-3 decision late last year, ruling that it was enacted “with an impermissible intent to discriminate” against Black voters.

Like the arguments over partisan gerrymandering that happened on Tuesday, the newly-conservative state Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case about the constitutionality of the voter ID implementation law after the midterms. (The balance of power on the court shifted from 4-3 Democratic to 5-2 Republican after a pair of wins in 2022 for the GOP.) The new Republican majority signaled a willingness to overturn the past rulings on it on Wednesday.

“The law in front of us provides IDs free of charge, and as I think has already been explained, doesn’t actually prevent anyone from voting,” Justice Trey Allen, one of the recently-elected Republicans, asserted during the hearing. (The attorney for the groups that initially challenged the law pushed back on the latter point, in particular.) The second new GOP justice, Richard Dietz, also seemed unperturbed about overturning the past court’s ruling, arguing that there is a reason state code gives the court a window to rehear cases at its discretion.

The battle over voter ID isn’t just happening in North Carolina. Around 60 voter ID bills that would add stricter ID requirements have been introduced so far this year, according to the Voting Rights Lab. That’s quickly approaching the number of bills introduced last year.

Idaho, where ID is already required at the polls, may be the next state to impose new guidelines. Last week, the Republican-controlled Idaho Senate passed a bill, which the state House passed earlier this year, that removes student ID as a valid form of identification to vote. A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Brad Little’s office didn’t say if he would sign the legislation, only noting that it hasn’t reached his desk yet.

Other Republican governors have signed voter ID laws this year, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in January and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon last month. The Ohio legislation requires voters to show photo ID to vote, which goes into effect next month during early voting for the state’s May election. The Wyoming law adds a photo ID requirement for those obtaining an absentee ballot in person.

Lauren Kunis, CEO of VoteRiders, a nonpartisan group that helps prospective voters get an ID if they need one to cast a ballot, said that misleading narratives about election integrity following the 2020 election have led to more efforts to implement voter ID legislation.

“As we turn the corner into 2023, the 2024 election cycle, voter ID laws are not slowing down one bit,” Kunis said. “If anything, they’re speeding up and millions of voters are going to pay the price for these changes.”

But photo ID laws are, generally, popular among American voters. A Gallup poll from last summer found that a supermajority of those polled supported requiring showing identification to vote — a trend that has been true in most polling for years.

Happy Thursday. You know where to find me: [email protected] and @madfernandez616