North Carolina Supreme Court Will Rehear Two Voting Rights Cases With New GOP Majority

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Feb. 3, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to rehear two cases: one that previously blocked a restrictive photo ID to vote law and one that tossed out North Carolina’s original congressional and legislative maps drawn with 2020 census data for being partisan gerrymanders. These unprecedented decisions come after Republican legislators filed motions for rehearing following the court’s shift from blue to red in the 2022 midterm elections. Today, the five Republican members of the state’s highest court agreed to rehear both cases. 

In Holmes v. Moore, the North Carolina Supreme Court previously blocked Senate Bill 824, a 2018 law that provides a narrow list of qualifying photo IDs acceptable for voting in North Carolina. In its December 2022 order, the court’s Democratic majority found that the law was enacted to intentionally discriminate against Black voters in violation of the North Carolina Constitution. Specifically, the court held that “the evidence considered by the trial court supports its conclusion that S.B. 824 has a disparate impact and that this impact ‘bears more heavily on one race than another,’ namely on African-American voters.” The Republicans’ granted request for rehearing seeks to review the decision permanently blocking S.B. 824.

In Harper v. Hall, the state court proceedings over North Carolina’s maps from which the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Moore v. Harper originated, the North Carolina Supreme Court previously struck down the state’s congressional and legislative maps. In February 2022, the court ruled 4-3 to strike down all three sets of maps for being partisan gerrymanders that violated the state constitution. Following the order, a trial court adopted fairer remedial maps before the 2022 midterms. Republicans in the North Carolina Legislature then brought the remedial congressional map to the U.S. Supreme Court, which remains pending. At the same time litigation was ongoing before the U.S. Supreme Court, the remedial maps were appealed to the state Supreme Court, which struck down the remedial state Senate map for partisan gerrymandering while upholding the remedial congressional and state House maps in December 2022. The Republican legislators’ granted request for rehearing in Harper seeks review of the state Supreme Court’s December 2022 ruling and also asks for the initial February 2022 ruling to be invalidated.

The state Supreme Court’s previous pro-voting rulings fell along partisan lines, with four Democratic judges in favor and three Republican judges in opposition. However, in the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans retook control of the court and now enjoy a 5-2 majority. In light of this change in composition, Republicans took this opportunity to ask the court to rehear two major cases they previously lost.

Today, in two 5-2 orders, the newly Republican North Carolina Supreme Court decided it would rehear both cases, making the future of North Carolina’s maps as well as its photo ID law subject to the whims of the court. In her dissent in the redistricting case, Democratic Justice Anita Earls 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.” She concluded her dissent by stating that “[b]ecause this Court’s decision today is an affront to the jurisprudence of this State and to the citizens it has sworn an oath to serve ‘impartially,’ ‘without favoritism to anyone or to the State,’ I dissent.” Notably, the decision to rehear the redistricting case could have major repercussions for the appeal that is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in Moore v. Harper

Read the order in Holmes v. Moore here.

Learn more about the case here.

Read the order in Harper v. Hall here.

Learn more about the case here.