WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — A federal trial set for January on litigation challenging North Carolina’s voter photo identification law has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether legislative leaders should be permitted to help defend the law in court.
The Supreme Court said last month it would consider the request of House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger to formally step into the case and defend the 2018 law along with state government attorneys.
The lawsuit was previously scheduled to go to trial in Winston-Salem on Jan. 24. In an order issued Thursday, presiding U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said it makes sense to delay the start to avoid further confusion over voter ID. Otherwise, a Supreme Court ruling favoring GOP legislators could require a repeal trial.
“While the court is mindful that parties have been preparing for trial, there is no reason that such preparation must go to waste,” Biggs wrote. No new starting date was set.
Berger and Moore have argued that state attorneys led by Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, have not adequately represented the state to defend the law. Biggs and the full U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected the GOP leaders’ requests.
The trial will focus on the underlying voter ID law, the topic of the race-bias lawsuit filed by the state NAACP and several local chapters. Other lawsuits are pending over the state’s voter ID mandate, which was approved by voters in November 2018 as a constitutional amendment and then formally written into law by the legislature. It’s currently not being enforced.
In September, a state judicial panel ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The North Carolina Supreme Court is hearing a third case challenging how legislators put the constitutional amendment on the ballot — a case that’s been slowed as recusal motions were filed against two state justices.