Breaking: NC Supreme Court keeps alive the NC NAACP challenge to voter ID

The North Carolina Supreme Court building.

The state Supreme Court in a 4-3 vote agreed with a central argument the North Carolina NAACP made in its challenge to controversial constitutional amendments, keeping alive the case against voter ID and an income tax cap. (Click here to read the majority and dissenting opinions.)

The Supreme Court’s Democratic majority wrote that proposed constitutional amendments aren’t automatically considered valid if they are proposed and put on the ballot by legislators elected from unlawful districts. The court’s three Republicans dissented.

The case will go back to the trial court for another hearing because the Democratic majority said there are still questions that need to be answered to determine whether the constitutional amendments stick.

“We now have a North Carolina Supreme Court decision declaring that our legislature does not have unlimited authority to amend the constitution,” Kym Meyer, a lawyer representing the NAACP, said in an interview. “It’s a huge win on that point.”

The case dates to 2018, when the legislature voted to put six proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, including an amendment that required photo ID for in-person voting and an amendment reducing the state’s 10% cap on personal and corporate income taxes to 7%.

The NAACP won in trial court but lost 2-1 in the state Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in February.

Putting a proposed constitutional amendment to voters requires three-fifths majorities of both the House and Senate, and the Republican-led legislature pushed through the proposed amendments the summer before they lost their super-majorities in the 2018 elections. Some legislators who voted on bills to get the proposed amendments in front of voters were elected from districts federal courts determined were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

The NAACP’s lawyers argued that legislators elected from unconstitutional districts cannot propose valid constitutional amendments.

Lawyers representing Republican legislators argued that elected officials are presumed to be acting properly, and that voter-approved changes to the constitution should be left alone.

Justice Anita Earls wrote the majority opinion that says, in short, that process matters. “Respecting the people’s will means respecting the process they saw fit to include in their fundamental law,” the opinion says.

The order 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 political process leading to the legislators’ election.

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the amendment should be invalidated, the opinion says. If the answer to all the questions is “no,” or if there were not enough legislators elected in unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts to make a difference in getting proposed changes to voters, the amendments must stand.

Meyer, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the ruling was a huge win for the NAACP. “At the beginning of this case, we were told that the case was unwinnable,” she said. “The NAACP is always the group that has to stand up in these situations.”

Justice Phil Berger Jr. writing in dissent said that the majority considered questions that the legislature should decide.

The NAACP wanted Berger, who is Senate leader Phil Berger’s son, and Justice Tamara Barringer, who voted to approve the constitutional amendments when she was a member of the state Senate, to recuse themselves or be disqualified from hearing the case. In the end, all seven justices participated.

Former Trump attorney worked with Atlanta tech firm to hack Coffee County, Georgia voting system

Sidney Powell, who is a former member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, would embark on a public campaign of unleashing unfounded accusations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

An attorney connected to former President Donald Trump coordinated with experts from an Atlanta-based computer firm to hack into Coffee County’s voting system in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, according to records obtained in a federal lawsuit challenging the security of Georgia’s voting system.

The subpoenaed documents indicate that former Trump attorney Sidney Powell and other Trump affiliated lawyers solicited the help of Atlanta-based forensic data firm SullivanStrickler to breach election systems in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan, which are battleground states where Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in the November 2020 election.

Those three states became the targets of Trump and other election deniers who lodged unfounded conspiracy theories of a stolen election that included accusations of rigged electronic voting machines.

The Washington Post first reported the confirmed breaches on Monday based on newly filed emails and other court records subpoenaed from SullivanStrickler by election security advocates seeking to replace Georgia’s Dominion Voting Systems’ electronic ballot marking devices with paper ballots, which they argue are more secure.

In an April 2021 email, former NSA official, Jim Penrose, who was employed by Powell, requested that SullivanStrickler COO Paul Maggio mail forensic material taken from the Coffee County voting machines during a trip to the county’s election office.

An invoice connects SullivanStrickler experts to Powell, who led an unsuccessful effort to overturn the presidential election. Powell is battling a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion and faces potential disbarment.

Maggio’s court documents show a list of Coffee County hard drive contents, ranging from runoff ballot images to data from the election server to reports from the general election.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Georgia have said that the breach further illustrates serious vulnerabilities that have also been detailed in a report by an expert computer science witness. Read more

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