State Supreme Court rejects NC GOP’s arguments in voter ID rehearing

N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby

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  • The N.C. Supreme Court has denied the N.C. Republican Party's request to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a casing dealing with voter ID.
  • The N.C. GOP wanted the state's highest court to reinstate a portion of the voter ID law dealing with a separate issue. The disputed law had allowed leaders of recognized political parties to appoint additional election observers.

The N.C. Supreme Court has denied the state Republican Party’s request to file a friend-of-the-court brief in a rehearing of a case dealing with voter ID.

The court announced its decision without comment Monday. Justice Trey Allen, a Republican, signed the court order.

State Republicans had requested the chance to give the high court information about a less-publicized piece of a disputed 2018 state voter ID law. In addition to requiring photo identification for in-person voters, the law would have allowed leaders of the state’s recognized political parties to appoint additional election observers.

“[T]he NCGOP has the statutory right to appoint 100 statewide poll observers who serve to further the interests of the NCGOP, Republican voters, and Republican candidates by ensuring the security and integrity of elections in the State of North Carolina,” wrote attorneys Philip Thomas and Kevin Cline in a motion filed Friday.

“If the trial court’s decision is not overturned, at least in part, it will significantly undermine the NCGOP’s ability to exercise its statutorily granted rights and to ensure the integrity of elections in North Carolina,” Thomas and Cline wrote.

The provision about poll observers made up Section 3.3 of Senate Bill 824, the legislation approved in 2018 to require voter ID for N.C. elections.

“[S]hould Section 3.3 of S.B. 824 continued to be enjoined, the NCGOP loses its ability to appoint poll observers, which it considers an important part of its role in the electoral process,” according to the N.C. GOP motion. “This section was not challenged by Plaintiffs. As an enactment of the General Assembly, Section 3.3 is presumed constitutional; therefore, this Court should uphold it.”

The state Republican Party’s full brief would have asked the state Supreme Court to sever Section 3.3 from the rest of the law. Republicans also would have asked the Supreme Court to allow that section of the law to move forward, regardless of the outcome of the voter ID dispute.

The state Supreme Court will rehear the Holmes v. Moore case on March 15. The court, with a new 5-2 Republican majority, will reconsider the previous 4-3 Democratic court’s ruling against voter ID.

On Dec. 16, more than one month after voters replaced two Supreme Court Democrats with new Republican justices, the outgoing court’s Democratic majority agreed with a trial court’s split decision throwing out the voter ID law. That decision included the provision dealing with election observers.

If the state Supreme Court reverses its earlier decision and reinstates voter ID, it’s unclear when voters would face a voter ID requirement.

In addition to state court action, North Carolina’s voter ID law faces a legal challenge in federal court. No paperwork has been filed in that case since July 2022.

In the last major development in that case, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an 8-1 ruling in June 2022 allowing state legislative leaders to take part in the defense of voter ID before a federal judge.