Supreme Court rules in North Carolina fight over voter ID

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Supreme Court rules in North Carolina fight over voter ID

The Supreme Court gave Republican legislative leaders a win Thursday in an ongoing fight over the state's latest photo identification voting law.

The 8- 1 decision doesn't end the three-year dispute over the voter ID law, which is not currently in effect and has been challenged in both state and federal court. The decision means that Republican legislative leaders can intervene in the federal lawsuit to defend the law. A lower court had ruled that the lawmakers' interests were already being represented by the state's attorney general, Democrat Josh Stein.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that the people of North Carolina have authorized the leaders of their legislatures to defend enacted state statutes against constitutional challenge. A federal court must respect that kind of sovereign choice, not assemble presumptions against it. North Carolina voters changed the state constitution in 2018 to include a voter ID mandate. The law at issue was passed by the lawmakers to implement the change. The law requires voters to show a photo ID to vote, whether it's a driver's license, a passport or certain student and local government identifications.

Roy Cooper vetoed the measure, but lawmakers overrode his veto to pass the law. The state NAACP and several local chapters sued in federal court to halt enforcement of the law, arguing that it discriminates against Black and Latino voters in violation of the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, both Republican, wanted to intervene in the federal court case to defend the law, as well as the lawyers for the state, saying Stein wouldn't adequately fight for the law. But a federal judge said that lawmakers' interests were not adequately defended by lawyers in Stein's agency. A three-judge federal appeals court panel ruled for the lawmakers before the full federal appeals court reversed the decision, ruling 9 -- 6 that lawmakers shouldn't be allowed to intervene.

The judge in the case blocked the law itself, who said it was impermissibly motivated by discriminatory intent, at least in part. The three-judge appeals panel reversed her decision and sent it back to the U.S. District Court, where a trial is yet to start.

In a case in state court, judges struck down the law as tainted by racial bias. North Carolina's Supreme Court has said it will take up the case, but there is no date for oral arguments.

The North Carolina Supreme Court has already heard arguments in a lawsuit over the constitutional amendment that mandates voter ID be allowed on the November 2018 ballot in the first place. A state judge had ruled that the GOP-controlled legislature lacked authority to put the amendment and one other on the ballot because lawmakers had been elected from racially biased districts two years ago. The decision was later overturned on appeal before going to the state's highest court.