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N.C. Supreme Court to Expedite Voter-ID Challenge Before Nov. Election

Case 'will likely cause voter confusion...'

(Democrat justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court outvoted their Republican colleagues to expedite oral arguments for October in a lawsuit challenging the state’s photo voter identification law.

The state’s highest court split along party lines 4–3 to issue an order on Sept. 9 calling for oral arguments in the case for October, though Chief Justice Paul Newby contends it “will likely cause voter confusion.”

The order came in response to a July 11 request from plaintiffs for the Supreme Court to expedite the case after the court agreed in March to intervene.

“In light of the great public interest in the subject matter of this case, the importance of the issues to the constitutional jurisprudence of this state, and the need to reach a final resolution on the merits at the earliest possible opportunity, plaintiffs’ Motion for Expedited Hearing and Consideration is allowed as follows: This case shall be scheduled for oral argument as soon as practicable, on a date to be determined during arguments scheduled the week of 3 October 22, or by special setting no later than 18 October 2022,” the order read.

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A trial court panel voted 2–1 in September 2021 to throw out North Carolina’s voter ID law in Holmes v. Moore, but lawmakers appealed the decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Plaintiffs then sought the left-skewed Supreme Court’s intervention. Republicans outnumber Democrats on the Court of Appeals 10-5, while Democrats outnumber Republicans 4-3 on the Supreme Court.

The Holmes case is related to another challenge to the 2018 voter-approved referendum that included the voter ID requirement in the state constitution, N.C. NAACP v. Moore.

The Supreme Court ruled in August a trial judge should review that case to consider nullifying the voter ID constitutional amendment. The state law challenged in Holmes v. Moore implements the approved referendum challenged in NAACP v. Moore, the Carolina Journal reported.

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Newby argued in dissent to Friday’s order that the expedited hearing in Holmes is unnecessary, and “will not provide plaintiffs any new relief that they do not already enjoy.”

“Once more, the majority expedites the hearing of a case where no jurisprudential reason supports doing so,” Newby wrote in a dissent supported by the court’s two other Republican justices. “Given the impending November elections, expedited hearing in October on this voter ID matter will likely cause voter confusion … especially when this Court recently entered a decision in another case involving voter ID, N.C. NAACP v. Moore.

“Additionally, the trial court’s permanent injunction in favor of plaintiffs remains intact,” he wrote. “Expedited consideration, therefore, will not provide plaintiffs any new relief that they do not already enjoy. Accordingly, nothing suggests that expedited hearing is necessary ‘to prevent manifest injustice’ or to protect ‘the public interest.'”

Democrat Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman will face off against Republican Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dietz to replace outgoing Democrat Associate Justice Robin Hudson, while Democrat Associate Justice Sam Ervin IV will face off against Republican UNC-Chapel Hill professor Trey Allen in the November election.

Four polls since May have shown the Republican candidates leading Democrats among likely voters for both seats.

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