Less than two months after the court’s previous iteration, led by Democrats, delivered significant opinions against GOP legislators who had been sued, the court’s new Republican majority agreed on Friday to rehear redistricting and voter identification issues.
The court will hear oral arguments on the issues again in mid-March due to the unprecedented judgments, which were made in orders backed by five justices with Republican voter registrations on the seven-member court. Legislators led by House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger requested two weeks ago that the court rehear the case in the hopes of obtaining different legal outcomes.
The two Democratic justices bemoaned the orders and claimed that they went against more than 200 years of legal precedent, during which rehearings had been extremely uncommon. They claimed it seemed to be taking place merely due to the court’s shifting partisan complexion. Early in January, two new Republican justices who had won elections in November to fill Democratic positions took their positions.
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Associate Justice Anita Earls stated in the dissent of the decision to rehear the redistricting case that “the legal questions are the same; the evidence is the same; and the relevant law is the same.” “The political makeup of the Court is the only thing that has changed.”
The attorneys for the GOP members claim that the previous 4-3 Democratic majority erred in December when they invalidated a state Senate map that the legislature approved and upheld congressional borders that Republicans had objected to. They said those same Democrats made a mistake by applying the incorrect legal test to justify the invalidation of a 2018 law requiring picture identification to cast a ballot.
The rehearings might ultimately result in new conclusions that overturn the Supreme Court’s February 2022 ruling that significant partisan gerrymandering was prohibited by the state constitution and reinstate the requirement for picture identification. This ground-breaking redistricting decision disallowed Republican legislators from creating maps to guarantee long-term Republican advantages in the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation.
The examination matters received scant attention in the court’s rehearing orders. The court ruled that a case could only be reheard “where the petitioner presents a convincing demonstration that the opinion may be incorrect.” The orders stated that the legislators’ petitions or justifications satiated the requirements.
But according to Earls, Friday’s decision was a “radical shift” from the court’s past. She claimed that out of 214 similar requests made since 1993, only two had been granted rehearing.
She noted that opportunities for rehearing were “limited in scope and scarce” because of respect for the institution and its procedures’ integrity. “That custom is no longer followed today.” Mike Morgan, an associate justice, joined in the debate. By late Friday, neither Moore nor Berger had made a public statement regarding the orders.
The North Carolina Supreme Court, which flipped to a Republican majority with last year’s elections, said Friday it would rehear a redistricting case and a voter ID case https://t.co/cTSX1yta6z
— CNN (@CNN) February 4, 2023
A petition submitted this week by Common Cause, the plaintiff in the redistricting dispute, requesting that the GOP requests are rejected and the ruling is upheld was dismissed by the court’s majority of Republicans. Hilary Klein, an attorney who submitted the Common Cause case, said the advocacy organization, which claimed the rehearing request was illegal, is “disappointed the Court is handing legislators another bite at the apple.”
Jeff Loperfido, a lawyer who worked to repeal the voter ID law, said in a statement, “We will continue to fight for the rights of all citizens in North Carolina to vote freely and fairly and look forward to making that argument again before the court.” Working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are Klein and Loperfido.