- The N.C. Supreme Court will rehear the Harper v. Hall redistricting case on March 14. It will rehear the Holmes v. Moore voter ID case March 15.
- Legislative leaders had requested rehearings in both cases, after the outgoing state Supreme Court's 4-3 Democratic majority had ruled against them.
- As of Jan. 1, the Supreme Court has a 5-2 Republican majority.
The N.C. Supreme Court will rehear two election-related cases on back-to-back days next month. The court’s official calendar sets a March 14 hearing date for the Harper v. Hall redistricting case. Justices will take up the Holmes v. Moore voter ID case March 15.
The state’s highest court announced one week ago that it had granted state legislative leaders’ request to rehear both cases.
Justices voted 5-2 for both rehearings, with Republican justices voting yes and Democratic justices voting no.
In Holmes v. Moore, the state Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on Dec. 16 to strike down North Carolina’s 2018 law mandating photo voter identification. The court’s Democrats outvoted Republicans in ruling that the law discriminated against minority voters.
In a Feb. 3 order signed by new Justice Trey Allen, the court ruled that state legislative leaders’ petition for rehearing “satisfies the criteria” set out in court rules.
Legislative leaders must file any additional documents in the case by Feb. 17. Voter ID critics can respond by March 3.
“In their supplemental briefing, the parties shall address the following issues: (1) the issues raised in the petition for rehearing and (2) whether the operation of the challenged statute is impacted by the pending legal challenge to N.C. Const. Art. VI, Sec. 3(2), addressed by this Court in N.C. State Conf. NAACP v. Moore, 382 N.C. 129 (2022),” according to the order.
The N.C. NAACP v. Moore case challenged the 2018 voter-approved state constitutional amendment — Article VI, Section 3(2) — that mandated voter ID. The state Supreme Court sent the case back to a trial judge in August. The 4-3 Democrat-majority court set out guidelines for a trial judge to determine whether the amendment could be thrown out.
Justice Michael Morgan wrote for the Democrats dissenting from the Holmes v. Moore rehearing order.
“There is no aspect of the case at issue which is presented by petitioners in their Petition for Rehearing which meets the historically and purposely high standards to qualify for this Court’s exceedingly rare extension of the opportunity for a party which has already been fully heard by this Court through written submissions and oral arguments — followed by a studious and thorough analysis of the matters at issue which culminates in this Court’s issuance of its binding opinion — to be afforded yet another opportunity to be heard by this Court upon the party’s original unsuccessful efforts,” Morgan wrote.
The same 4-3 Democratic majority from the outgoing 2022 state Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 16 in the Harper v. Hall redistricting case. The high court’s Democrats confirmed a trial court’s decision to throw out legislators’ second version of a congressional election map. The split Supreme Court also voted to reject the state Senate election map used in the 2022 election.
“Upon consideration of legislative-defendants’ petition and the arguments therein, this Court allows the petition for rehearing,” according to a separate Feb. 3 order signed by Allen.
The parties in Harper v. Hall face the same briefing deadlines as in the voter ID case.
“In addition to the issues raised in the petition for rehearing, the parties shall also brief the following issues: (a) Whether congressional and legislative maps utilized for the 2022 election, which were drawn at the direction of this Court, are effective for future elections; (b) What impact, if any, the following provisions of the North Carolina Constitution have on our analysis: Article II, Section 3(4) and Article II, Section (5)(4); and (c) What remedies, if any, may be appropriate,” according to the order.
The two cited state constitutional provisions set limits on redrawing legislative election maps more than once every 10 years. Article II, Section 3(4) reads: “When established, the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of population taken by order of Congress.” Article II, Section 5(4) uses nearly identical language to limit redrawing of state House districts.
Justice Anita Earls wrote for the Democrats dissenting from the Harper v. Hall rehearing order. “The majority’s order fails to acknowledge the radical break with 205 years of history that the decision to rehear this case represents,” Earls wrote. “It has long been the practice of this Court to respect precedent and the principle that once the Court has ruled, that ruling will not be disturbed merely because of a change in the Court’s composition.”
State lawmakers already plan to redraw the congressional election map for 2024 elections. The rehearing in Harper v. Hall will help determine whether legislators will also redraw maps for their own elections.
The outgoing state Supreme Court issued both the voter ID and redistricting decisions last December, little more than one month after voters replaced two Democratic justices with Republicans. Those two new justices took their oaths of office on Jan. 1, two weeks after the outgoing court issued its rulings.