Supreme Court Rules North Carolina Republicans Can Enforce and Debate Voter Identification Laws

Supreme Court Rules North Carolina Republicans Can Enforce and Debate Voter Identification Laws

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 on Thursday that leaders of North Carolina’s Republican Legislature can step in to advocate in court for a voter ID law that they believe the state’s Democratic attorney general isn’t fighting hard enough to defend.

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The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the law, but the governor and his attorney general are Democrats, giving rise to a case that presents a dispute about what happens when political parties don’t control all the branches of state government.

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In 2018, North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the state constitution requiring a photo ID to vote in person at the polls. When the Legislature passed a law to specify how the provision would work, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed it, but the Legislature then overrode his veto and enacted the measure.

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said Thursday that state legislators could defend the law.

"Through the General Assembly, the people of North Carolina have authorized the leaders of their legislature to defend duly enacted state statutes against constitutional challenge," he wrote. "Ordinarily, a federal court must respect that kind of sovereign choice, not assemble presumptions against it."

The state law is not one of the country’s more demanding voter ID measures. Classified as “non-strict” by the National Conference of State Legislatures, it would allow voters who show up at the polls without IDs to cast provisional ballots, which would be counted if they later presented qualifying IDs to county boards of elections. Another provision says ballots must be counted if voters stated that a “reasonable impediment” prevented getting the required ID.