N. Carolina governor, attorney general seek to end voting law case

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By Colleen Jenkins | WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. North Carolina’s Democratic
governor and attorney general on Tuesday withdrew a request for
a U.S. Supreme Court review of a state voting law struck down
last year by an appeals court that found it intentionally
discriminated against African-Americans.

In moving to end the state’s defense of the
Republican-backed 2013 law, Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney
General Josh Stein said they also discharged outside counsel
hired to defend North Carolina.

The immediate impact on the case was not clear. The
governor’s office said the state Board of Elections, its
individual members and its executive director remained in the
case, which was appealed to the Supreme Court in December.

The board’s three Republicans and two Democrats are likely
to discuss the issue during their meeting on Wednesday, board
spokesman Patrick Gannon said.

The Supreme Court is due to discuss whether to take the case
on March 3.

The Democratic state officials and the civil rights groups
that challenged the law would be keen to avoid the Supreme Court
taking up the case because there is a chance the statute could
be revived.

The court is currently divided 4-4 on ideological grounds,
with four liberals and four conservatives. Republican President
Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacant seat, conservative
appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, could well break a tie if the
high court were to hear the case, if he is confirmed by the U.S.
Senate.

In August, the high court split 4-4 on whether to reinstate
key portions of the law prior to last year’s election, with the
four conservative justices voting in favor.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July overturned the
state law, which, among other things, required voters to show
photo identification when casting ballots and scaled back early
voting.

“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,” said Cooper, who
took office in January after defeating the Republican incumbent.

Republican legislative leaders criticized the move and said
they expected the courts to reject the Democrats’ request.

“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,” Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore
said in a statement.

North Carolina passed the law weeks after the Supreme Court
voted 5-4 in June 2013 to eliminate a requirement that states
with a history of discrimination receive federal approval before
changing election laws.

The law’s supporters said it was needed to prevent voter
fraud.

The NAACP civil rights group and individual voters sued to
block the law, arguing that it disproportionately burdened
African-Americans and Hispanics, who are more likely than whites
to lack acceptable forms of identification. (Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley)



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