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Cooper, Stein move to end voting rights case

Posted February 21

— Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein have taken steps to withdraw North Carolina's appeal of a controversial voting rights lawsuit, essentially ending the state's defense of its voter ID law and related election laws passed in 2013.

"Voting is how people hold their government accountable. I support efforts to guarantee fair and honest elections, but those efforts should not be used as an excuse to make it harder for people to vote," Stein said in a statement.

It's unclear what the practical effect of this step will be. Ordinarily, a plaintiff withdrawing from a lawsuit would leave the lower court ruling in place. However, in North Carolina, General Assembly leaders have the ability to defend lawsuits on behalf of the state.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger noted that Cooper and Stein aren't the clients of the outside attorneys, so they cannot fire them, and the attorneys will continue representing the state.

"Roy Cooper’s and Josh Stein’s desperate and politically motivated stunt to derail North Carolina’s voter ID law is not only illegal, it also raises serious questions about whether they’ve allowed their own personal and political prejudices and conflicts of interest to cloud their professional judgment," Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement.

The State Board of Elections also remains a defendant in the case, but a spokesman for the agency could say only that lawyers for the board are reviewing the matter.

The lawsuit involves a 2013 voting law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly. The measure imposed a photo identification requirement to vote, limited the number of days over which early voting could take place and took away the ability to register and vote on the same day during the early voting period.

Along with individual plaintiffs, the NAACP sued to strike down the law, saying that it unfairly harmed minority voters. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying last summer that the law's provisions "target African Americans with almost surgical precision."

Republican leaders at the General Assembly say they were not trying to discriminate, only to ensure that the election system was secure against potential fraud.

Following the 4th Circuit decision, Cooper, who was then attorney general, refused to defend the measure any longer. That's when then-Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, took up the law's defense.

McCrory lost to Cooper, a Democrat, in November, but before leaving office, he appealed the 4th Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The steps taken by Cooper and Stein Tuesday aim to withdraw that appeal and allow the 4th Circuit ruling to stand.

"It's time for North Carolina to stop fighting for this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters," Cooper said in a statement.

According to Stein, lawyers for the NAACP have agreed to forgo $12 million in legal fees the appellate court ordered the state to pay if the state drops its case now.

Voting rights advocates hailed the decision.

Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina said the 2013 law "disproportionately hurt African-Americans, other voters of color and youth. But in raw numbers, it actually hurt more white voters, including those who backed the Republican legislators who passed it. For example, research by Democracy North Carolina shows that only one in three (35 percent) of the voters using same-day registration in 2016 were Democrats. Most were white Republicans and unaffiliated voters, and our research indicates that most of them supported Donald Trump and other Republican candidates."

21 Comments

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  • Ken Ackerman Feb 22, 6:07 a.m.
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    Excuses? Those come from Republicans when they try to defend their attempts at limiting voting.

  • Ed Ray Feb 22, 5:41 a.m.
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    They did the ID would be free and you can mail in your early votes in NC. And you do not have to show up on one day. I think you can vote like 20 day early than that Tuesday and anybody can do it.

  • Ed Ray Feb 22, 5:33 a.m.
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    Wrong you can mail in your vote here in NC they cut 2 early polling places because in the past they were rarely used. You keep making excuses and that is all they are excuses.

  • Ed Ray Feb 22, 5:31 a.m.
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    You are wrong here. Yhey set up transportation, paid for said ID and would also fast track your ID. They also had set it up where they have had mobile ID centers come to neighborhoods and you could get a ID there they also dropped the guidelines to get a ID ie: birth cerf, SS card or anything that you have to have to get an ID. So your excuses or voided have a nice day.

  • Ken Ackerman Feb 21, 11:27 p.m.
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    What you and your like want is a law that prevents anyone that doesn't agree with YOU from voting.

  • Ken Ackerman Feb 21, 11:24 p.m.
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    You forget the people this law are aimed at cannot afford to take a half day off without pay to go to the DMV and pay $10 to get an ID. This law has absolutely nothing to do with a person's identity and everything to do with keeping low wage earner's from being able to vote.

  • Ken Ackerman Feb 21, 11:20 p.m.
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    Fair and honest elections? Since when do Republicans want those? Voter ID laws is just one means of attack. Another even worse method of attack is to close polling stations in areas where Democrats typically vote. A good example would be Atlanta (~500,000 people) which had ONE early polling station for the entire city. That same tactic is being using in NC for early voting and for election day.

  • Betsy Sparks Feb 21, 9:29 p.m.
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    My problem with the law was how it limited the early voting opportunities, making it more difficult for registered voters to vote. Tuesday voting was originally set up so that farmers would be able to travel the long distance to their polling place without having to travel on the Sabbath. That archaic practice is no longer needed, so we should adapt voting rules to the times. Make it easier for registered voters to vote by extending early voting days/times and making more early voting locations available. That would also reduce the biggest inconvenience of checking IDs - lines at polling places would be shorter if everyone didn't have to show up on just one day. Make it easier for registered voters to get IDs, make it easier for them to access polling places, and it will be easier to maintain the integrity of the voting process.

  • William Sherman Feb 21, 5:45 p.m.
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    Why you ask?? Simple --any form of voter ID, regardless of issuance, purpose etc/, is a threat to the voting base of the Dem party. It would cut down on dead people voting, illegal aliens, felons, etc. Before its all over, there will be a voter ID LAW of some description in both NC and in the country..

  • Gary Thompson Feb 21, 4:25 p.m.
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    maybe they are worried about having a warrant. If so stop doing crimes.

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