Raleigh, N.C. — In a blog post and a Slate Magazine column Thursday, election law expert Richard Hasen suggests Gov. Roy Cooper could score a victory for opponents of North Carolina's voter ID law by scuttling the state's appeal of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling striking down the law.
That 4th Circuit ruling did away with voter ID rules that were in place for last year's primary during the November election and forced elections officials to expand early voting times across the state.
Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory appealed the 4th Circuit decision, which struck down much of the 2013 law, including a provision that eliminated same-day registration. Cooper, a Democrat, refused to make the appeal himself when serving as attorney general and took over as governor on Jan. 1. Josh Stein, a Democrat and former state senator, took over as attorney general the same day.
High-profile lawsuits keep NC in court "So it looks like nothing would stop Gov. Cooper and AG Stein from simply withdrawing the cert petition, leaving the North Carolina case on the books and denying the Supreme Court a chance to grant review. Even if something prevents withdrawal of the petition, Cooper and Stein could file a letter disagreeing with the earlier position of the state in the cert petition," Hasen wrote.
The idea, he said, would be to protect what amounts to a win for voter ID opponents before President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, can be join the court and presumably break what looks to be a 4-4 deadlock on the law in favor of voter ID proponents.
It's unclear whether Cooper and Stein will take his advice.
"Gov. Cooper continues to oppose this law and believes we should make it easier, not harder, for people to exercise their right to vote. We’re currently reviewing this case inherited from the prior administration," Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said.
Stein offered a similar statement, saying, "I'm currently reviewing this matter closely. I strongly support people’s right to vote."
Hasen subsequently posted a second piece noting that North Carolina's legislative leaders can also choose to represent the state in lawsuits, so it's not clear if Cooper withdrawing the state's appeal would have the impact he envisioned.