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Voter ID Ruling Remains As Appeals Court Nixes Rehearing

NC Court of Appeals Building
Dave DeWitt
N.C. Court of Appeals Building

A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday 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. 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. Tuesday's short  order 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.

An "en banc" rehearing requested by Repulicans has only been available to litigants for a few years and had never occurred as of a few weeks ago.

Still, it's likely the full court wouldn't have participated in a rehearing. Some of the 15 judges recused themselves from deliberations that led to Tuesday's 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.

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