EDENTON, N.C. (WGHP) – If you want to understand why North Carolina’s voter-ID process that you voted for back in 2018 won’t be part of this year’s election process, then you must pay close attention: This is a dual-process reason.

The North Carolina Supreme Court convened Monday at the historic and dimly lit Chowan County Courthouse to hear arguments about why justices should overturn a state court that threw out a law to establish the requirement that voters must possess a photo ID when going to vote.

A 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court had ruled against the law passed in December 2018 by the General Assembly because it discriminated against Black voters who were less likely to have the required ID. A federal court also had blocked its implementation. There is another lawsuit along those lines that hasn’t even gone to trial and may not need to do so.

But neither case has anything to do with the constitutional amendment that voters approved in November 2018, and the justices’ review this time has nothing to do with their decision in August to kick back that amendment to the lower court because it was placed on the ballot by a legislature that was elected by racially discriminatory electoral maps.

Yes – to keep it simple – these are two cases argued in front of the state Supreme Court that address the same issue attacked twice by the Republican-led legislature. Neither has led to a single picture ID having been observed at any voting precinct.

To understand the chronology of all of this, we have to start in 2013, when lawmakers first decided that such a law was needed and passed one. The federal courts in 2016 threw out that one because it discriminated against Black and Latino voters.

Lawmakers then put a voter ID amendment on the ballot in 2018, and that passed with 55.5% of the vote.

But the Supreme Court decided in August, based on the weight of four Democrat justices over three Republicans, that the legal process that had led to that amendment – and another capping the state’s income tax – was inappropriately based on the makeup of the legislature, which was then a GOP supermajority that had been elected from district maps the courts had found to disenfranchise minority voters.

Law v. amendment

Just after that election, in fact, was when that supermajority of Republicans passed – hastily by some argument – legislation to implement the law and did so with the override of a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The GOP by 2020 had lost its supermajority if not its control of both chambers.

But a group of voters sued, and the panel in Wake County Superior Court ruled in September that the 2018 law (not the constitutional amendment per se) was unconstitutional based on its alienation of some voters. That’s what brought us to the state’s former colonial capitol on Monday.

That case, argued in an hour-long web-streamed hearing, addressed data and process and previous court cases that may or may not have set precedent.

The issue of whether the law disenfranchises Black voters was debated by the lawmakers’ attorney Pete Patterson and Jeff Loperfido for the voters as a matter of legislative cause and electoral effect.

All about timing

One of the key issues was whether Republicans might have seen they were about to lose their “supercontrol” of the House and Senate and moved quickly to ensure that the law was passed. Patterson on their behalf argued that four Democrats had voted for the bill, as did one in the override of Cooper’s veto.

Two primary Republicans on the court, Chief Justice Paul Newby and Associate Justice Phil Berger Jr. – whose father, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), is a named defendant – bore in on that issue in questioning Loperfido, who explained away some of it.

Berger: What could the legislature have done to address the potential that it was acting from a base of discrimination?

Loperfido: “They could have taken time to hear concerns raised in legislative debate. … They just plowed ahead … on a timetable to get a more stringent bill in place.”

Although the decision by the court will have no effect on the election on Nov. 8, the election on Nov. 8 might have an effect on the court’s decision.

One justice, Robin Hudson, a Democrat, is retiring, and incumbent Democrat Sam Ervin IV is in a race to keep his seat. The GOP could be favored to win both of them and assume its own majority control, so the court likely would rule before a change in its makeup.