North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders want a three-judge panel to determine whether the state’s voter ID constitutional amendment was legitimately on the ballot.
The state Supreme Court’s Democratic majority in a 4-3 decision last month said that proposed constitutional amendments aren’t automatically valid if legislators who voted to put the questions on the ballot were elected from unlawful districts. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 affirmed that 28 legislative districts drawn in 2011 were racial gerrymanders. Legislators elected from these districts voted in 2018 to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.
The state Supreme Court last month sent the case concerning the constitutional amendments back to the trial court to answer more questions.
Legislative Republicans want a three-judge panel to answer those questions about the amendments, not the Superior Court judge who initially ruled against them.
The state NAACP challenged the voter ID amendment and an amendment capping the state income tax rate. As the case made its way through the state court system, the NAACP won in trial court and but lost 2-1 in state Appeals Court.
The Supreme Court agreed with the core of the NAACP argument, but sent the case back to the trial court to determine, using a three-prong test, whether the voter ID amendment and the amendment capping the state income tax were properly put to voters in 2018.
The Supreme Court told the trial court to consider whether the proposed amendments immunize legislators from democratic accountability; perpetuate the ongoing exclusion of a category of voters from the political process, or intentionally discriminate against a particular category of citizens who were also discriminated against in the redistricting process that resulted in the unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts, Policy Watch has reported.
If Republicans are successful in getting a three-judge panel to apply the tests, they would be able to side-step Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins, who initially decided in the NAACP’s favor.
A lawyer for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in the court filing that a three-judge panel is the proper forum for considering the questions the Supreme Court wants answered.
Lawyers for the state NAACP said a court filing that the Republican request is frivolous, and if the Supreme Court wanted a three-judge panel involved, it would have said so.
“The Court made clear that the case be remanded back to the Trial Court that originally heard the matter, as is the normal practice,” the state NAACP’s lawyers wrote.
Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican who dissented from the Democratic majority’s decision, appoints three-judge panels.