NC Supreme Court Strikes Down State Senate Map, Voter ID Law

December 16, 2022 by Dan McCue
NC Supreme Court Strikes Down State Senate Map, Voter ID Law
(North Carolina State Capital photo)

RALEIGH, N.C. — It was a busy Friday at the North Carolina Supreme Court, which within a matter of hours struck down a state Senate district map as an impermissible political gerrymander and tossed a controversial voter ID law.

In a divided, 4-3 ruling, the Democratic majority on the state’s highest court found that the most recent iteration of North Carolina’s state Senate map all but ensures Republicans will secure a veto-proof majority in the chamber next year. 

Writing on behalf of the majority of justices in the redistricting case, Associate Justice Robin Hudson ordered a lower court to modify the Senate map “only to the extent necessary to achieve constitutional compliance.” 

“If our state is to realize its foundational ideals of equality and popular sovereignty, it must first ensure that the channeling of ‘political power’ from the people to their representatives in government through elections, the central democratic process envisioned by our constitutional system, is done on equal terms,” Hudson wrote.

But in a dissenting opinion, Republican state Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby accused his Democratic colleagues of usurping powers reserved to state lawmakers.

“Despite the majority’s judicial amendments to our constitution to create an active role for itself in redistricting, our case law directs that the General Assembly’s policy determinations in enacting laws are entitled to a presumption of constitutionality,” Newby wrote.

Meanwhile, in a separate 4-3 decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down a 2018 law that requires residents to show a photo ID when they vote in person.

Associate Justice Anita Earls wrote in the court’s majority opinion that “the law was enacted with discriminatory intent to disproportionately disenfranchise and burden African American voters in North Carolina.”

The decision doesn’t prevent lawmakers from revisiting the issue and passing a tweaked version of the photo ID law.

In a 2018 referendum, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly favored photo ID and directed lawmakers to pass such a measure.

Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger said in a statement that he plans to do just that next year. 

“If Democrats on the state Supreme Court can’t respect the will of the voters, the General Assembly will,” Berger said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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