On Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state's voter ID law with a partisan ruling during a lame duck session. The Carolina Journal explained:
Two weeks before they’re set to lose their majority, N.C. Supreme Court Democrats issued rulings Friday striking down the state’s photo voter identification law and the election map used for state Senate races.
Both rulings featured party-line 4-3 splits, with the court’s four Democrats outvoting their three Republican colleagues.
Voters unseated one of those Democrats in the Nov. 8 election and elected Republicans to fill both his seat and an open seat. The state Supreme Court will have a 5-2 Republican majority in January.
Democrat Justice Anita Earls authored the court's opinion:
The question before this Court is whether the three-judge panel’s finding that S.B. 824 was motivated by racial discrimination is supported by competent evidence in the record and whether the trial court correctly applied the Arlington Heights factors when it found S.B. 824 was enacted at least in part with racially discriminatory intent. See Vill. of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 265–68 (1977); see also, Pullman-Standard v. Swint, 456 U.S. 273, 288 (1982) (a finding of purposeful racial discrimination is a finding of fact not to be overturned unless clearly erroneous and “[t]reating issues of intent as factual matters for the trier of fact is commonplace.”).
We hold that the three-judge panel’s findings of fact are supported by competent evidence showing that the statute was motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose, and that the trial court correctly applied the Arlington Heights factors to the specific facts of this case. See Vill. of Arlington Heights, 429 U.S. at 265–68. By applying well-settled law concerning how the right to equal protection is secured under article I, section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution, the trial court’s ruling does not mean that any voter ID law enacted in North Carolina would violate the equal protection guarantee, only that the provisions enacted by this General Assembly in S.B. 824 were formulated with an impermissible intent to discriminate against African-American voters in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.
As the Lawyer Democracy points out, this isn't the first time the North Carolina Supreme Court has gone after the state's voter ID requirements:
This is just the latest assault on voter ID by the North Carolina Supreme Court. In August, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued a bizarre opinion cutting at North Carolina’s 2018 constitutional amendment to require photo ID to vote. This amendment was overwhelmingly approved by the voters. Now the statute implementing this constitutional amendment has been struck down by the same court.
North Carolina Republicans remain optimistic despite the voter ID law being struck down. The Washington Post reported:
Michael Whatley, chairman of the state Republican Party, spoke optimistically about the North Carolina court’s coming conservative majority.
He told The Washington Post on Friday the judges who sit on the court engage in “legal gymnastics at the highest level, and it is results-oriented jurisprudence. The voters of North Carolina have roundly rejected that.”
“Thankfully, we are getting to the end of the reign of these judicial activists on the North Carolina Supreme Court, who have pushed their agenda from the bench rather than following the law and the constitution of North Carolina,” he said.
Laws like North Carolina's voter ID law make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. As the Lawyers Democracy Fund concluded:
Voter ID laws are incredibly popular among voters, including 97% of Republicans, 84% of Independents, 53% of Democrats, and 60% of African American voters for how they boost confidence in the integrity of elections. Reasonable voter ID laws like North Carolina’s should be upheld, not struck down for partisan gain.