The state Supreme Court’s new Republican majority will rehear cases on voter photo ID and redistricting that were decided against Republican legislators less than two months ago.
In December, the then-Democratic majority on the state’s highest court held that the voter ID law the Republican legislative majority pushed through in 2018 was enacted with “an impermissible intent to discriminate against African-American voters.”
The 4-3 Democratic majority also ruled in December that the state Senate districts used in the November elections were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.
With the switch to a 5-2 Republican majority this year, it appears that these victories by voting rights groups will be temporary.
Soon after two seats on the court switched parties and new Republican justices joined, Republican legislators asked for new hearings in both cases. In the redistricting cases, also they asked the court to overrule a February 2022 decision that found state House, Senate, and congressional districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.
Republicans’ lawyers have argued, and Republican justices agreed in their dissents last year, that issues of partisan redistricting are outside the purview of courts.
The two remaining Democratic justices disagreed with the GOP majority’s decision Friday to rehear the cases.
In her dissent in the redistricting decision, Justice Anita Earls wrote that rehearing the case was a “radical break with 205 years of history.”
Rehearing cases is rare, she wrote. Since January 1993, 214 petitions for rehearing were filed, and only two were allowed.
“Going down this path is a radical departure from the way this Court has operated, and these orders represent a rejection of the guardrails that have historically protected the legitimacy of the Court,” she wrote.
“Not only does today’s display of raw partisanship call into question the impartiality of the courts, but it erodes the notion that the judicial branch has the institutional capacity to be a principled check on legislation that violates constitutional and human rights.”
The rehearings are scheduled for March 14.