US Supreme Court rules Republicans can defend voter identification law in North Carolina

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina could intervene in a lawsuit challenging a voter identification bill they thought was unlikely the state’s Democratic Attorney General would defend strongly enough.

In an 8-1 decision written by conservative judge Neil Gorsuch, the court ruled that two Republican legislative leaders could join the lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of a 2018 law that prosecuted attorney generals. General Josh Stein already defended .

Gorsuch said the Republican-backed state law expressly authorized lawmakers to participate in cases like these and that a “presumption of adequate representation is inappropriate when a duly authorized state agent attempts to intervene to defend a state law.”

“This lawsuit, which no one is defaming, illustrates how divided state governments sometimes justify the participation of multiple state officials in federal court,” Gorsuch wrote.

Representatives from Stein and lawmakers — Philip Berger, the North Carolina Senate leader, and Timothy Moore, the North Carolina House of Representatives leader — did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The law in question was designed to implement an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that voters approved in 2018 and require people going to the polls to present photo ID.

Democrats have accused Republicans of taking measures, including requiring voters to show certain forms of identification in order to cast a vote in an effort to make it harder for certain groups of people who tend to support Democrats. to vote in elections. Republicans have said such measures are necessary to prevent vote fraud.

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill in North Carolina, but the Republican-led legislature ignored his veto and enacted the bill. The NAACP filed a lawsuit alleging that the measure discriminated against black and Latino voters and was unconstitutional.

Stein, a Democrat, had voted against a previous voter ID bill when he was a senator. But after the lawsuit was filed, he took responsibility for defending the state board of directors in the case.

Thursday’s ruling overturns a decision by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Virginia, that lawmakers had no right to intervene, noting that Stein had previously convinced it to overturn an injunction. that temporarily blocks enforcement of the law.

Liberal judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion that “the court’s conclusion that state respondents insufficiently represented the petitioners’ interests is a fiction not supported by the record.”

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Will Dunham)

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