RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina appeals court panel has overturned a court ruling that voided amendments to the state constitution because legislators who put referendums on the ballot were elected from racially biased districts.
The challenge to actions by the Republican-dominated General Assembly is not over after Tuesday's split decision by the Court of Appeals and will be decided by the state Supreme Court.
The litigation centered on two amendments approved by voters in 2018, including a photo identification requirement to vote. A trial judge declared the legislature lacked the power to approve legislation that created the referendums because federal judges had found illegal gerrymandering.
One of the defendants named in the case, Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said Tuesday that it was “a great day for democracy.”
“We kept the faith in the vote of the people, knowing North Carolina courts should not interfere with their sovereign power to amend our state constitution,” Speaker Moore said.
“It’s a great day for democracy that our citizens can have confidence their vote on critical issues for our economy and our elections systems will count and not be overridden by activist courts.”
Lawyers for the NAACP said they are taking the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
“At stake here is the fundamental legitimacy of our state constitution. For as long as our constitution has had a provision for amendment, it has required a three-fifths supermajority of both the state, House, and Senate to approve a potential change before taking the question to the voters," Kym Hunter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center said.
"The legislative defendants’ argument to ignore this critical safeguard and allow a supermajority that lacks a claim to popular sovereignty essentially rewrites our core foundational document. Their attempt to allow a racially gerrymandered supermajority to lock-in their narrow agenda should be forcefully rejected,” Hunter added.
“We are thrilled to bring this historic case to the Supreme Court of North Carolina to ensure that the people’s voice is heard and that the foundational principles of our democracy, and our Constitution, is preserved and protected. Let it be crystal clear: the Court of Appeals' decision today changes nothing about the coming election," Rev. Dr. Spearman, President of the NC NAACP on behalf of Plaintiffs said.
"No photo voter ID will be required in 2020. The requirement of Photo Voter ID in North Carolina is prohibited in 2020 and until there is a full trial, based on a finding of this same court and by a federal court that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted its voter ID law with illegal racially discriminatory intent. The road to justice is not a straight line, but we will not rest until it is won,” Rev. Spearman said.