Supreme Court to hear dispute over North Carolina voter ID law

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to review a procedural dispute involving a North Carolina law that requires voters to show photo ID.

The case does not directly concern the lawfulness of the requirement, but rather deals with which government bodies can defend the law against legal challenges.

Top Republican lawmakers in North Carolina who back the measure are seeking to intervene in defense of its constitutionality, despite the fact that the state’s attorney general, a Democrat, has already taken that position in state and federal court. 

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Still, GOP legislative leaders contend that they too have a right to represent the state’s interest in defending the law — a claim the lower courts found unconvincing, prompting the lawmakers’ appeal to the Supreme Court.

“This is a fairly common problem we see today where a state executive (governor and/or attorney general) is a Democrat and the state legislature is controlled by Republicans, and there’s a dispute over who gets to speak for the state,” Rick Hasen, a professor at University of California, Irvine School of Law, wrote on the Election Law Blog

The North Carolina legislature passed the state’s voter ID law in December 2018 after overriding the Democratic governor’s veto. 

The law, S.B. 824, with only limited exceptions requires in-person and absentee voters to present one of 10 recognized forms of photo identification. The measure drew a swift legal challenge from the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and several of its affiliates. 

The challengers allege that the photo ID requirement, along with provisions of the law that expand the number of poll watchers and make it easier to challenge ballots, pose a disproportionate impact on minority voters in violation of legal protections.

The case, Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, has not yet been scheduled for argument.