The North Carolina Supreme Court, in 5-2 decisions split along ideological lines, agreed Friday to rehear two important voting rights cases after Republican lawmakers asked the high court to reconsider its previous rulings.
In separate orders published Friday evening, the Supreme Court said it would hold new hearings next month on the two cases, one of them involving the constitutionality of political maps drawn by GOP lawmakers last year, and the other involving the constitutionality of the state’s voter ID law.
The court instructed parties in both cases to file additional legal briefs addressing specific questions before both cases are reheard on March 14.
GOP candidates won both Supreme Court races on the ballot in November, taking the court from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 GOP majority. In December, before the new justices took their seats, the court ruled that the 2018 voter ID law passed by the GOP-controlled legislature was unconstitutional, because it had deliberately been written to harm Black voters more than white voters.
The court also reviewed maps drawn by Republican lawmakers for use in legislative elections in 2022, and concluded that the state Senate map was unconstitutional and needed to be redrawn. The court allowed the state House map to be continue to be used.
In January, attorneys for Republican leaders of the legislature asked the court, now consisting of a Republican majority, to rehear both cases and correct errors in the court’s previous rulings.
At the time, GOP House Speaker Tim Moore said North Carolina voters “sent a message” on Election Day and had “clearly rejected the judicial activism of the outgoing majority.”
Advocates who challenged the Republican-drawn maps called the GOP petition for the gerrymandering case to be reheard “frivolous.”
“Their petition is nothing more than a cynical attack on judicial independence, our state’s Constitution, and North Carolinians’ long-held freedoms,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said then.
Common Cause asked the court to dismiss the request from Republicans for the case to be reheard, but in Friday’s order, the court dismissed the filing from the group, saying it “grossly violates appellate rules.”
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