North Carolina’s Supreme Court narrowly struck down the state’s photo voter identification law, ruling the policy “was motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose” — in a rushed decision handed down two weeks before Democrats lose their majority on the elected panel.

“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 Friday’s 4-3 party-line ruling.

“A law enacted with the intent to discriminate on the basis of race is unconstitutional even if no voter ultimately is disenfranchised,” Earls wrote.

The law requiring Tar Heel State voters to present a photo ID to cast a ballot was deemed unconstitutional in 2021 by a lower state court — even though voters had approved its addition to the state constitution by an 11-point margin.

“The outgoing lame duck liberal majority has, once again, defied the will of the voters,” railed NC House Speaker Tim Moore. “North Carolina voters have had enough of the disdain this court has for them and the rule of law.”

Voter ID signs at a polling place
State representatives have battled over voter ID laws in North Carolina since 2013.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

The panel’s three GOP 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.

Republicans will hold a 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court in January, after the GOP unseated one of the panel’s four Dems and won an open seat in the Nov. 8 election.

Republicans, who hold a majority in both houses of the state legislature, vowed to pass another — perhaps even stricter — voter ID law in response to the court’s ruling.

Voters walk to the polls
North Carolina voters favored the state’s voter ID requirement, 55% to 44%, in 2018.
Getty Images

If Democrats on the state Supreme Court can’t respect the will of the voters, the General Assembly will,” state Sen. Phil Berger — the father of the dissenting Justice Berger — told the Carolina Journal. “I look forward to respecting their wishes and passing a new voter ID law next year.”

A 2021 national survey found 78 percent of registered voters in favor of stronger voter ID requirements.


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