“The right to vote is a fundamental right, preservative of all other rights. If the right to vote is undermined, it renders illusory all ‘other rights, even the most basic,’” wrote Justice Anita Earls in the 4–3 party-line ruling. “The provisions enacted … were formulated with an impermissible intent to discriminate against African American voters in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.”
Voter ID is “enacted with the intent to discriminate on the basis of race” and is thus “unconstitutional even if no voter ultimately is disenfranchised,” Earls continued.
The dissenting Republican justices argued the law’s “plain language” showed “no intent to discriminate against any group or individual.”
“The majority relies, as it must … on its own inferences to reach a contrary result,” wrote Justice Phil Berger Jr. in his dissent.
The decision comes just two weeks before Democrats lose their majority on the elected panel.
The law in question was passed in 2021 and added to the state constitution by voters.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore blasted the state Supreme Court for defying “the will of the voters,” arguing the state has “had enough of the disdain this court has for them and the rule of law.”
State Republicans, who hold a majority in both houses of the state legislature and recently took back the state Supreme Court majority, said they will pass another, perhaps even stricter, voter ID law.
“If Democrats on the state Supreme Court can’t respect the will of the voters, the General Assembly will,” state Sen. Phil Berger Sr.—the father of the state court justice—told the Carolina Journal. “I look forward to respecting their wishes and passing a new voter ID law next year.”