The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled Monday that Republican members of the North Carolina General Assembly are not allowed to intervene in a voter identification lawsuit on behalf of the state of North Carolina.
The lawsuit, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Berger, focuses on voter ID requirements and Senate Bill 824, which requires both voters who cast absentee ballots as well as voters who cast their ballots in-person, to provide an authorized form of identification. The bill also expands the number of partisan poll watchers that are allowed to observe polling stations and allows local county election boards to provide voters with an acceptable form of identification if they do not already have one. In December 2018, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but his veto was overturned by the Republican supermajority in the assembly.
Multiple North Carolina chapters of the NAACP filed suit, alleging that the new voter ID law discriminates against Black and Latinx voters. After a judge for the US District Court for Middle District of North Carolina granted a preliminary injunction, several members of the North Carolina Senate entered a motion to intervene. The Fourth Circuit originally reversed the District Court’s injunction, but the case was ordered to be reheard en banc in October.
In the rehearing, the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court’s refusal to allow Republican lawmakers to intervene, noting that:
North Carolina’s attorney general, appearing for the State Board of Elections, already is representing the state’s interest . … Nevertheless, the legislative leaders have moved twice … to intervene so that they also can speak for the State, insisting that this case requires not one but two representatives of the State’s interest.
The Fourth Circuit did not address the merits of the case, but held that there was no abuse of discretion by the district court. Among the eight judges who did not join the decision by Judge Pamela Harris were Trump-appointed Judges Quattlebaum, Jr., Rushing, and Richardson.