Supreme Court wants to know why judges dismissed Cooper's lawsuit

Posted September 1, 2017 6:57 p.m. EDT
Updated September 2, 2017 12:27 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday asked a three-judge panel for more insight into why it dismissed Gov. Roy Cooper's challenge to lawmakers' efforts to overhaul the state elections board.

Cooper initially filed suit in December, following a special legislative session in which the General Assembly passed measures that merged the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission. After a three-judge panel ruled in the governor's favor, lawmakers tweaked how the elections and ethics board would be combined and passed the revisions over his veto.

When Cooper refiled his lawsuit, the panel said the dispute had become a political one and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

The governor appealed the decision, and the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case this week.

Justice Mike Morgan's order gives the three-judge panel 60 days to explain why it lacks jurisdiction to handle the case and to address the merits of Cooper's complaint. Once that order is filed, the Supreme Court would take another look at it, he said.

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court has acted quickly so that the three-judge panel now has the opportunity to get this right on the merits of the case," Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the order also allows county boards of elections to operate with two members – they have traditionally had three members, but the overhaul tied up in the lawsuit would change that to two Democrats and two Republicans on each county board – as long as both members consent.