Lawmakers object to expedited N.C. Supreme Court hearing on voter ID

  • Legislative leaders object to a proposed expedited review for a lawsuit challenging voter ID.
  • Lawmakers argue that a proposal to hold arguments in September or October would draw attention to voter ID in the middle of an election.

Legislative leaders are registering their objections to a request to speed up the N.C. Supreme Court’s review of voter ID.

ID critics have asked the state’s highest court to schedule oral arguments in September or October. The Supreme Court is considering a trial court’s split 2-1 ruling from September 2021. That ruling threw out North Carolina’s 2018 voter ID law.

“After the passage of nearly 10 months from the Superior Court’s final judgment, Plaintiffs now ask this Court to expedite the hearing and consideration of the merits of this case,” according to a response filed by attorney Nicole Moss, who represents Republican legislative leaders.

Moss labeled the proposal “wholly unnecessary.”

“In the nearly 10 months from the Superior Court’s judgment, and the several months since Plaintiffs sought this Court’s review, Plaintiffs have at no time asked to expedite,” she added. “And Plaintiffs’ new motion fails to offer any recent or emergent cause to grant such a motion now.”

“Plaintiffs argue that the significance of the issues presented by this case is a reason to expedite the hearing and consideration of the merits,” according to the legislators’ argument. “As the merits have remained unchanged since the Superior Court’s divided judgment in September 2021, the issues presented are neither a cause to expedite nor an excuse for Plaintiffs failing to seek expedition earlier.”

“In all events, the significance of the issues in this case, if anything, is a further reason for this Court to take its standard and fulsome review,” Moss wrote. “This is especially so because this Court does not have the benefit of the Court of Appeals’ considered views.”

The state Supreme Court agreed to take the voter ID case in March, bypassing the Appeals Court. Justices will decide the ultimate fate of the 2018 voter ID law, originally known as Senate Bill 824.

“In a most telling omission, Plaintiffs do not argue that this Court’s standard practice would cause them even the slightest risk of prejudice,” Moss wrote. “The Superior Court’s permanent injunction remains in effect; S.B. 824 is not currently being enforced. Thus, expedited consideration will not give Plaintiffs any relief (however unwarranted) that they do not currently enjoy, namely voting without the constitutionally mandated requirements of S.B. 824.”

Granting the plaintiffs’ request for an expedited review “would place the Court’s consideration in the middle of the election,” Moss wrote.

“Plaintiffs do not square their newfound desire for a court decision in the midst of the upcoming election with their past representations to this Court,” she added. “Plaintiffs have previously asserted to this Court that any decision upholding the constitutionality of S.B. 824 will require the State to expend ‘substantial time and effort … sufficiently in advance of upcoming elections to minimize the risk of voter confusion and disenfranchisement.’”

“Thus, in January, Plaintiffs allegedly sought to avoid this voter confusion with a decision by this Court sufficiently removed from an election. In July, Plaintiffs apparently want rushed consideration right before an impending election, tossing aside their prior concerns. Plaintiffs fail to explain how (or why) they now seek consideration of this case in the weeks leading up to an impending election, during mail-in and early voting, when the risk of ‘judicially created [voter] confusion’ is highest.”

“An unusual and expedited review by this Court during election season, according to the Plaintiffs’ own past representations, would be more likely to cause voter confusion, not less,” Moss argued. “This Court should not endorse Plaintiffs’ transparent and unnecessary scheduling gamesmanship. With no valid reason to speed these proceedings to a hasty resolution, this Court should continue to hear and consider the merits of this case in the normal course. In other words, in just the manner that Plaintiffs requested in January.”

N.C. voters do not face an ID requirement for elections scheduled July 26 or Nov. 8.

The state Supreme Court is considering a second case related to voter ID. Justices heard oral arguments Feb. 14 in a case challenging the successful 2018 referendum that enshrined voter ID within the N.C. Constitution.

Meanwhile, an 8-1 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in June ensures that state legislative leaders will take part in a federal lawsuit challenging the same voter ID law.