Through the looking glass: 2018 courts news sets NC up for what to watch in 2019

By: - December 26, 2018 2:55 pm

There weren’t the same fireworks in the courts world this year, but there certainly was plenty of news to reflect back on.

Lawmakers have been in session a large part of the year, and working on things like voter ID, changing the Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and working out a deal on judicial redistricting.

It was also an election year, and it turned out to be a pretty good one for North Carolina courts.

All the news this year has only set the framework for what to keep an eye on next year. Check out some of the biggest courts and law news stories from this year, with an outlook in each for what to watch in 2019.

Voter ID

This was the year the GOP finally got their longtime wish to make North Carolinians have to show a photo ID to cast a ballot. They put it in one of six constitutional amendments, but intentionally left the language vague and told voters they would determine the details during a lame duck legislative session. The bill implementing the amendment was passed fairly quickly with little public input, and then vetoed by the Governor. Lawmakers voted to override the veto, and now voter photo ID is law in North Carolina. Though as soon as the bill became law, several voters filed a lawsuit, and it is now working it’s way through the courts. It will definitely be something to keep an eye on in 2019. Catch up on some of the news below:

North Carolinians highlight struggles getting photo IDs ahead of amendment vote

PW exclusive: Voting rights advocates spell out their recommendations for voter ID bill

Partisan gerrymandering

Some things never change in North Carolina. Not surprisingly, the battle over partisan gerrymandering is one of those things. There are two North Carolina cases pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. And with the midterm election this year, partisan gerrymandering continued to cast a cloud over lawmakers in state court as well. North Carolinians can count on that trend to continue in 2019 as Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party and a group of individual voters are challenging in court the 2017 redrawn maps that were used in the midterm. They hope to have new maps in place for the 2020 election. Get up to speed by reading some of the articles below:

Haven’t read yesterday’s 205-page partisan gerrymandering ruling? We’ve got you covered

Partisan gerrymandering will be North Carolina’s next big court battle

Midterm elections/Supreme Court race

The midterm elections turned out to be a rebuke of lawmakers efforts to politicize the judiciary. Voter turnout in statewide judicial races was also higher than the past three midterm elections, and voters elected the first openly LGBTQ candidate in any statewide political race. Voters also chose their next state Supreme Court justice after months of a contentious race: Anita Earls. Her election to the state’s highest court will tip the bench to a 5-2 Democratic majority — which means all eyes will be on the court in 2019 as they will likely take up partisan gerrymandering and voter ID litigation. Read up below:

State Supreme Court candidates debate judicial philosophy amid high-profile race

Midterm election proves to be Independence Day for NC courts

The end of judicial redistricting

Rep. Justin Burr (R-Montgomery, Stanley) met the end of his time as a lawmaker this year, and so did his plans to redistrict the entire court system. There was still very minimal redistricting but the overarching plan that had judges on their toes about what was next, went to the wayside. Read about it below:

Policy Watch exclusive: Double-bunked judges speak out on judicial redistricting plans

“Piecemeal” judicial redistricting: Lawmakers pushing a trio of bills that would impact a third of state’s residents

Board of Elections battle

The Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has certainly monopolized the recent news cycle. GOP lawmakers tried to change the structure of the State Board through a constitutional amendment, but it was voted down. Then a court ruled the current structure unconstitutional, and now there is a power struggle about whether the State Board should return to its original structure before Gov. Roy Cooper was elected or if a new bill lawmakers crafted about the structure should be law. Cooper only recently vetoed the law, but it’s expected lawmakers will take a vote later this week to override it. From there, one could make an educated guess that it could end up in court, but only time will tell.

GOP lawmakers expedite Board of Elections bill without Democratic, public input

GOP wants to shield investigations from public scrutiny; Cooper won’t go along

Bonus: Subpoenas

In other news, a President Donald Trump appointee requested an unprecedented amount of subpoenas for election data just before the midterm election. If North Carolina election officials are ultimately forced to comply with federal subpoenas for election data, the government would have information about how more than two million people voted over the past eight years. The subpoenas were issued on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At issue mainly was the timeframe for which the feds wanted all that data — it has been extended, but the U.S. Attorneys Office is also supposed to be working to quash the subpoenas. There could be developments in this case as early as January of 2019.

Trump administration ‘fishing expedition’ could compromise privacy of millions of NC voters

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