Legislative defendants in a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID law are fighting a request to remove a Republican state Supreme Court justice from hearing the case.
Meanwhile, ID opponents are seeking a quick answer from the court about whether it will take the case at all.
Critics of voter ID filed a motion Friday asking the court for “expedited consideration” of an earlier Jan. 14 request. The critics want the Supreme Court to bypass the N.C. Court of Appeals. If the state’s highest court agrees, it would consider a trial court ruling throwing out North Carolina’s 2018 voter ID law.
A 2-1 Superior Court panel ruled in September against the ID law. The two judges rejecting voter ID were both Democrats. The dissenting judge was a Republican.
The case sits now in the Appeals Court, where Republican judges outnumber Democrats, 10-5. Opening briefs from legislative defendants are due in the Appeals Court no later than Monday, Feb. 7.
ID opponents want the case heard instead in the Supreme Court, where Democratic justices outnumber Republicans, 4-3.
Legislative defendants have accused voter ID opponents of “forum shopping.” Defendants contend voter ID critics fear losing the case at the Appeals Court level.
One day after the original Jan. 14 request for Supreme Court review, voter ID critics also called for the “disqualification” of Republican Justice Tamara Barringer. Barringer served as a state senator in 2018 when the General Assembly approved the ID law.
“Over the course of this Court’s history, fifty-two Justices first served in the General Assembly before becoming members of this Court,” according to legislative defendants’ response. “Those Justices established a ‘strong and firmly rooted tradition’ not to recuse in cases involving statutes that the General Assembly passed or amended during their legislative tenure, instead ‘fairly and impartially’ deciding those cases. Justice Barringer is the latest Justice of this Court to follow in this tradition.”
A Supreme Court order from Dec. 23 ensures that Barringer can decide by herself whether to participate in the case. On Jan. 7, Barringer issued an order explaining her decision to take part in another case. It also addresses legislation she considered as a senator.
There’s no timeline for a Supreme Court decision on whether to take up the voter ID law challenge.