The U.S. Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it will hear a case that North Carolina Republicans have brought over the right to defend the state’s voter identification law.
The law in question was passed in 2018 and requires that everyone in North Carolina have a photo ID to vote. The state’s chapter of the NAACP immediately challenged it, saying such a stipulation disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx voters.
Since then, the state’s Republican lawmakers have lodged a complaint that Gov. Roy Cooper and state Attorney General Joshua Stein ― both Democrats ― have not adequately defended the law against such legal challenges. The lawmakers sought to intervene in the defense against the NAACP lawsuit. After the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they could not step in, the GOP-controlled legislature asked the Supreme Court in August to consider the demands.
In their request, the lawmakers cited the governor’s opposition to the law, which he vetoed only to have the legislature override his decision.
“In his veto statement, he alleged that the bill has ‘sinister and cynical origins’ and was ‘designed to suppress the rights of minority, poor and elderly voters,’” the lawmakers wrote, saying Cooper and Stein are not fairly representing the state.
The questions presented by the case “strike at the heart of a State’s sovereign authority to designate agents to represent its interests in court,” the request continued. “And as this case demonstrates, they are of particular importance in the context of divided government and litigation involving controversial matters.”
Stein filed a response with the court asking it not to take on the case, saying that the state is already adequately defending the law and that because these types of issues arise so infrequently, it’s not appropriate for the Supreme Court to intervene.
Voter ID laws have grown into one of the most contentious issues around fair elections in recent years as GOP-controlled states began accelerating such restrictions. Democrats largely say they’re a tool of voter suppression (though studies find that effect may be minimal) and point to research that shows voter ID laws do nothing to combat voter fraud (which is already extremely rare).
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments and make a decision in the case by next summer.