In massive victories for Republicans, the North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday threw out a previous ruling against gerrymandered voting maps and upheld a photo voter identification law that colleagues had struck down as racially biased.
The rulings likely give the GOP-controlled legislature the ability to rework the state’s congressional map for next year’s election to help Republicans gain seats in the narrowly divided U.S. House. Under the previous map, Democrats won seven of the state’s 14 congressional seats last November.
The new edition of the court, which became a Republican majority this year following the election of two GOP justices, ruled after taking the unusual step of revisiting opinions made in December by the court’s previous iteration, when Democrats held a 4-3 seat advantage. The court held rehearings in March.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said the justices “followed marching orders of the Republican legislature by declaring open season for their extreme partisan gerrymandering” and were “destroying the court’s reputation for independence.”
“Republican legislators wanted a partisan court that would issue partisan opinions and that’s exactly what this is,” Cooper said in a statement.
Friday’s 5-2 rulings also mean that state lawmakers should have greater latitude in drawing General Assembly seat boundaries for the next decade, and that a photo ID mandate approved by the GOP-controlled legislature in late 2018 could be enforced in time for the 2024 elections.
In another court decision Friday along party lines, the justices overturned a trial court decision on when the voting rights of convicted felons can be restored. That means potentially tens of thousands of people convicted of felonies will have to keep waiting to completed their probation or parole or pay their fines to qualify to vote again.