In an astonishing ruling released late on Friday afternoon, a North Carolina state court struck down two constitutional amendments passed by voters last fall, saying that because the Republican-run legislature had been elected under an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, it had "lost its claim to popular sovereignty" and therefore was not empowered to place those amendments on the ballot.
Those amendments concerned very different topics: One established a new voter ID requirement while another lowered the cap on the state's maximum allowed income tax rate. Both, noted the court, harm black and Latino voters (the case was brought by the NAACP), with the latter doing so because it "tends to favor white households" and would "reinforc[e] the accumulation of wealth for white taxpayers." Voters approved both measures by double-digit margins last fall.
This ruling is highly unusual but not unique: In 1964, a federal court in Connecticut enjoined the state legislature, which had been elected using unconstitutional districts, from passing any laws until it had reconstituted itself under new maps. In the North Carolina case, the court limited its holding solely to efforts to amend the state constitution, saying the requirements for the legislature to do so "are unique and distinct from the requirements to enact other legislation."
There's no question, though, that Republicans will vociferously challenge this decision on appeal, and it could very well get overturned: Election law expert Rick Hasen opined that it's "not at all clear that this ruling will stand." But if it does survive, it would finally force Republicans to pay a price for their relentless gerrymandering and potentially open up an entire new avenue of challenges to the actions of tainted legislatures elsewhere.