In an interview, Ms. Riggs said the coalition brought the suit in a state court instead of a federal one in part because provisions in the North Carolina Constitution are more protective of voting than those in the federal Constitution. Beyond that, the Superior Court ruling, should it be upheld, would not be reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has become increasingly hostile to voting-rights arguments in recent years.
A separate lawsuit contesting the photo identification law is moving slowly through the federal courts, but the decision on Friday could make it moot if it is upheld.
The law at issue was the latest in a decade-long effort by Republicans in the state General Assembly to require voters to display identification, a cause the national Republican Party had embraced as an anti-fraud measure even though studies have shown that fraud at polling places was extremely rare.
An ID law passed in 2011 was vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor, Beverly E. Perdue. A second version, passed in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the core of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, relied on state data to compile a list of required IDs that Black voters disproportionately lacked, and exclude those they often held.
After that law was invalidated in 2016, the Legislature proposed an amendment to the state Constitution requiring voters to display identification at the polls. And when voters approved the amendment in the 2018 general election, the legislature called a lame-duck session to enact legislation setting out specific photo ID requirements.
A legal advocacy group, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, sued on behalf of five voters to overturn the law. At a trial in April, lawyers for the Republican-controlled Legislature argued that the new law not only was far less strict than the one struck down by the federal court, but counted a Black Democratic legislator as a sponsor.
The 2018 law accepted as valid student and tribal identification cards that the 2013 law excluded, made free IDs available at driver’s license and election offices and permitted voters who still lacked a photo identification to cast a provisional ballot.