In a recent ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court, with its new partisan mix, reversed a key voting case that had been decided by the court just a few years earlier. The decision has sparked controversy and raised concerns about the role of partisanship in the judiciary.
The case in question, NC NAACP v. Cooper, involved North Carolina’s voter ID law, which required voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. The law had been passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2018 and was immediately challenged by the North Carolina NAACP and other civil rights groups.
In 2019, a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals struck down the law, ruling that it had been enacted with discriminatory intent and would disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic voters. The state then appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
At the time of the appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court had a Democratic majority. In December 2019, the court upheld the lower court’s ruling, finding that the voter ID law violated the state constitution’s equal protection clause and was enacted with discriminatory intent.
However, the political landscape in North Carolina changed in 2020, with Republicans winning a majority on the state’s Supreme Court for the first time in decades. The new majority wasted no time in revisiting the voter ID case, and in April 2021, the court reversed its previous decision and upheld the law.
In a 4-3 decision, the court’s conservative majority argued that the voter ID law was constitutional and did not have a discriminatory intent. The decision was met with backlash from civil rights groups, who accused the court of being influenced by partisan politics.
The North Carolina Supreme Court’s shift on the voter ID law is not an isolated incident. In recent years, state courts across the country have become increasingly politicized, with judges being appointed or elected based on their political affiliations rather than their qualifications.
This trend is particularly concerning when it comes to issues of voting rights and election integrity. The right to vote is a fundamental pillar of democracy, and any attempt to restrict or undermine that right is a threat to our democratic institutions.
The North Carolina voter ID law is just one example of a broader effort by Republicans to restrict voting access in states across the country. Since the 2020 election, dozens of states have introduced bills that would make it harder to vote by mail, limit early voting, and impose strict voter ID requirements.
These efforts have been met with fierce opposition from civil rights groups and voting rights advocates, who argue that they are designed to suppress the votes of minorities, young people, and other traditionally marginalized groups.
The North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the voter ID law is a setback for voting rights advocates, but it is not the end of the road. The case could still be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and there are ongoing efforts to challenge voter suppression measures in states across the country.
Ultimately, the fate of our democracy rests on the ability of all citizens to participate in free and fair elections. The North Carolina voter ID case is just one battle in a larger war over the future of our democracy, and it is up to all of us to stand up for the principles of fairness, equality, and justice that are at the heart of our system of government.