North Carolina's governor and attorney general are taking steps to withdraw a request for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state's 2013 voting law, which was struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last year
Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, announced the move this morning.
“We need to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote, not harder, and I will not continue to waste time and money appealing this unconstitutional law,” Cooper said in a statement.
“It’s time for North Carolina to stop fighting for this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters.”
Last summer, the Fourth Circuit overturned North Carolina's sweeping voting law, which required voters to present a photo ID at the polls, shortened the early voting period, and eliminated same-day registration during early voting. In striking down the law, the circuit court judges wrote that its provisions "target African Americans with almost surgical precision."
After the circuit court's ruling, then-attorney general Cooper refused to defend the law, so former governor Pat McCrory, days before leaving office, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.
Outside legal counsel working on the case were dismissed this morning, Cooper said.
Stein said in a statement that dismissing the pending petition to the U.S. Supreme Court would save the state up to $12 million in potential liability. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs agreed to waive that amount in legal fees if the petition was dismissed, he said.
“The right to vote is our most fundamental right,” said Stein, a former state senator. “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.”
It's unclear whether this really spells the end for dispute over the 2013 voting law. Under state law, legislative leaders could hire outside counsel to defend the state’s lawsuit.
Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, called Stein and Cooper's "attempt to fire attorneys retained by the General Assembly" an "unethical stunt."
“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," the statement says.