RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina Court of Appeals has rejected a request by Republican lawmakers for its full cadre of judges to rehear a challenge over implementing voter photo identification.
The Court of Appeals denied the motion by the GOP legislative leaders on March 24. The lawmakers had asked that the entire court rehear questions considered by three of the court’s 15 judges in a lawsuit challenging the state’s December 2018 voter ID law.
The three-judge panel reversed a lower court decision and declared the photo ID requirement should have been halted last summer. The short order on March 24 gave no reason for the denial, which means last month’s unanimous decision in favor of voters who sued over the law still stands.
Voter ID already had been blocked by a federal judge in late December. Unless considered and stopped by the state Supreme Court, the state court injunction likely means a voter ID requirement won’t be carried out in the fall elections.
The three appeals judges had said there appeared to be evidence of “discriminatory intent” by Republican legislators in approving the voter ID law that would harm African American voters disproportionately. GOP leaders disagree, pointing to many exceptions in the law and the ability to cast ballots without an ID.
The possibility of the sort of en banc rehearing requested by Republicans has only been available to litigants since lawmakers passed a law allowing it in December 2016. To date, the Court of Appeals has never granted a request for an en banc hearing.
Even if the motion had been granted, t’s likely the full court wouldn’t have participated in a rehearing. Some of the 15 judges recused themselves from deliberations that led to the order. They included Judge Phil Berger Jr., whose father is Senate leader Phil Berger, a defendant in the lawsuit, and Judge Chris Brook, a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who fought against a 2013 voter ID law.