The Daily Brew: The latest on North Carolina’s voter ID law

Welcome to the Friday, September 24, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law as unconstitutional
  2. Your support every month will help voters every day
  3. U.S. Supreme Court releases December argument calendar

North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law as unconstitutional

On Sept. 17, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court ruled 2-1 that North Carolina’s voter ID law violates the state constitution. As a result, the law remains not in force. In early 2020, the same court ordered an injunction on the law pending its final ruling. Supporters of the law have indicated they will appeal this decision.

This is the latest in a series of legal challenges concerning North Carolina’s voter ID law. Let’s catch up on how we got here.

  • June 29, 2018: The North Carolina State Senate voted 33-12 to place House Bill 1092 (HB 1092) on the November ballot, which, if passed, would amend the state constitution to require voter identification at the polls under rules established by the legislature.
  • Nov. 6, 2018: The voter ID amendment passed with 55.5% in favor and 44.5% opposed.
  • Dec. 6, 2018: To comply with the amendment, the General Assembly of North Carolina voted to approve Senate Bill 824 (SB 824), which established the laws governing the state’s voter ID requirements.
  • Dec. 14, 2018: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed SB 824.
  • Dec. 19, 2018: The North Carolina House of Representatives overrode Cooper’s veto. The first lawsuits against SB 824 were filled shortly thereafter.
  • July 19, 2019: The Wake County Superior Court declined the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction to halt SB 824. Plaintiffs appealed.
  • Feb. 18, 2020: A three-judge panel on the North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered the Wake County Superior Court to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction, which it did, pending its final decision.
  • Sept. 17, 2021: The Wake County Superior Court ruled SB 824 as unconstitutional.

Under North Carolina’s SB 824, voters would be given a list of specific photo identifications they could present at the polls, including items like a driver’s license, passport, or tribal ID. SB 824 does not provide for a non-photo ID alternative like an affidavit or signature matching. If a voter cannot present one of the required IDs at the polls, he or she would be able to cast a provisional ballot but would have to return to the county board of elections with a proper form of identification before the votes are canvassed.

The Wake County Superior court panel found that “the evidence at trial [is] sufficient to show that the enactment of [SB 824] was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.” Judges Michael O’Foghludha (D) and Vince Rozier Jr. (D) formed the majority. Judge Nathaniel Poovey (R) dissented. All three judges were last elected in 2018 after running unopposed in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms.

Sam Hayes, general counsel for House Speaker Tim Moore (R), said Moore would appeal the ruling. If he does, the case would go before a panel of judges from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, on which Republicans currently hold a nine-seat majority. Democrats hold five seats with one judge’s partisan affiliation unknown.

As of September 2021, 35 states require some form of identification when voting. In 20 of those states, photo identification is required with the remaining 15 requiring non-photo identification. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia do not typically require voters to present ID at the polls.

Here are three other recent times courts have ruled on voter ID laws:

  • Texas: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a voter ID law in 2018 which required photo identification under most circumstances. If a voter did not have a proper ID at the polls, he or she could vote provisionally and return later to present the proper ID.
  • Missouri: The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a provision regarding affidavit requirements if a voter did not have a proper ID. As a result, Missouri voters could cast a ballot with either photo or non-photo identification.
  • North Dakota: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a law that re-established the state’s voter ID requirement. Under the law, voters without an ID at the polls could vote provisionally and then present a valid ID later. Voters could also present supplementary information like utility bills or bank statements if needed.

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U.S. Supreme Court releases December argument calendar

On Sept. 20, the U.S. Supreme Court released its December argument calendar for the 2021-2022 term, scheduling nine cases for argument between Nov. 29 and Dec. 8. Justices use these arguments to speak directly to attorneys and ask them questions about their cases.

Here’s a quick look at three of those cases:

  • Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C. concerns federal disability laws and whether they allow the petitioner to be awarded compensatory damages for emotional distress. The Court will hear arguments on Nov. 30.
  • Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. The Court will hear arguments on Dec. 1.
  • Carson v. Makin concerns public education funding, religious education, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020). In Carson, the question is whether a Maine state law violates the constitution by prohibiting students participating in a generally available student-aid program from choosing to use their aid to attend schools that provide religious instruction. The Court will hear arguments on Dec. 8.

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