Supreme Court to consider GOP lawmakers’ right to defend North Carolina voter ID law

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The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a fight over whether Republican state legislators are entitled to defend North Carolina’s voter identification law in court.

The North Carolinian state legislators claim that their state’s Democratic attorney general is unlikely to offer a defense of the law robust enough to preserve it.

“Attorneys in our office have worked diligently on behalf of the state throughout this case, and will continue to do so,” Nazneen Ahmed, a spokesperson for North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, said in an email to POLITICO.

The justices on Wednesday granted a request from the GOP state Senate and House leaders to take up a federal appeals court ruling that denied their request to intervene in a suit the state’s chapter of the NAACP brought against the voter ID law.

The move means arguments in the case will likely be scheduled at the Supreme Court early next year, with a decision expected by June or July.

The dispute is one of several that have reached the high court in recent years where litigants complained that state officials were not doing enough to defend a statute or had essentially conceded that it was unconstitutional.

The legal questions the justices agreed to consider do not include the validity of the underlying voter ID law, passed by the North Carolina legislature in 2018 following a referendum where voters amended the state’s constitution to require identification with voting.

A three-judge 4th Circuit panel initially sided with the GOP legislative leaders, but the full bench of the federal appeals court agreed to reconsider the issue and ultimately voted, 9-6, to uphold the ruling denying the legislators’ request to intervene.

In a separate lawsuit in September, a three-judge state trial court voted 2-1 to invalidate the law, with the majority concluding that its passage was “racially motivated.”

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