Voter suppression going to court. Will Roy Cooper defend it?

Roy Cooper advised Pat McCrory not to sign the Voter Suppression Bill (VSB) because of problems with its constitutionality. McCrory signed it anyway. In the next few days, several organizations will be challenging the law in court. As Attorney General, Roy Cooper will be tasked with defending it. He should refuse.


He should refuse

This all puts Cooper in a tricky position. As AG, he's supposed to defend the actions of the state. But his higher mission is to defend the constitution. The law McCrory signed arguably violates the latter. Cooper is on record saying McCrory shouldn't sign it.

Cooper knew all along, of course, that McCrory WOULD sign the bill, and that it would be challenged. That means he had clearly thought through the scenarios unfolding today. Will be interesting to see how he plays it.

Indeed, how Cooper handles this will go a long way to determining his suitability for higher office.

It's a tricky one

From my understanding, the AG's office has a lot of discretionary power when it comes to prosecuting violations of the law. If they didn't, they would need a hell of a lot bigger staff than they've got.

As far as defending laws that are challenged in civil court, I just don't know. But I would imagine there's some discretion there, as well.

Let Tillisberger defend it

The NCGA passed a last-minute bill that essentially appoints Tillisberger as defenders of bad laws that they passed when they get challenged in court, because they anticipated precisely this situation.

I think Cooper should go through the motions of defending it, apologize to the judge for not being able to keep a straight face at some of the laughable provisions, wink when he says, "Yeah, we think this here is probably constitutional", etc.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Cooper is almost certainly running for governor

All of this has to be looked at through that lens. That's certainly how he's looking at it.

Too bad Janet Cowell doesn't have a dog in this fight. Would be good to have both of these likely gubernatorial candidates calling BS on the GOP voter suppression agenda.

The groups challenging the law

Here's what I know so far:

  • SCSJ (Southern Coalition for Social Justice)

It was filed today,

and here is the lawsuit, courtesy of the Nation:

1. This lawsuit seeks to protect and preserve the voting rights of North Carolina
citizens—rights imperiled by the passage of new legislation that imposes unjustified and
discriminatory electoral burdens on large segments of the state’s population and will cause the
denial, dilution, and abridgement of African-Americans’ fundamental right to vote.

3. Although Shelby County struck down Section 4(b), the Court made clear that its
decision “in no way affects the permanent nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting
found in § 2” of the Voting Rights Act. The Court also reiterated that “[b]oth the Federal
Government and individuals” can sue under Section 2 and that “injunctive relief is available in
appropriate cases to block voting laws from going into effect.”

11. These provisions of H.B. 589—both independently and cumulatively—violate
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. The limitations that H.B. 589 imposes
on the right to vote have a disparate impact on African-Americans, and, in interaction with
existing societal and economic conditions, result in denying African-Americans equal and
meaningful access to the political process. The ultimate result of these provisions is the
dilution of African American voting strength.

As you can see, I skipped around a little. 32 pages is too much to cram into a comment.

Thanks for the update

I got an email from ACLU saying it was tomorrow, but I'm glad to see it moving ahead. And maybe there will be multiple challenges.

I especially hope they'll move beyond race and make the challenge broad and deep ... to go after gerrymandering on a bigger scale. But then again, what do I know.

Thanks for holding down the fort. I'm out of town, but when I heard this news, I had to find an internet connection and join the fight.

There are multiple challenges

I'm still trying to sort them out, but it looks like three (two today, one tomorrow) separate lawsuits:

Two lawsuits were filed today challenging the voting restrictions as racially discriminatory in federal court under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A third challenge, to the voter ID provision, will be filed in state court tomorrow morning.

The lawsuit brought by the North Carolina NAACP and the Advancement Project alleges that the law violates Section 2 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments because it “imposes unjustified and discriminatory electoral burdens on large segments of the state’s population and will cause the denial, dilution, and abridgement of African-Americans’ fundamental right to vote.” It alleges that five provisions of the law disproportionately impact African-American voters—the voter ID requirement, the cuts to early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration, the refusal to count out-of-precinct provisional ballots, and the increase in the number of poll watchers.

A separate lawsuit brought by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the ACLU on behalf of the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the A. Philip Randolph Institute also alleges that the elimination of same-day registration, the cuts to early voting and the ban on out-of-precinct provisional ballots violate Section 2 of the VRA and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because of their disparate racial impact. These changes will make North Carolina the new Florida when it comes to long lines and electoral chaos.

In addition, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice will file another lawsuit tomorrow challenging the voter ID provision in state court, alleging that under Article 6, Section 1 of the North Carolina Constitution, the legislature doesn’t have the power to set new voter qualifications. The plaintiffs will include college students who will not be able to vote in North Carolina because they have out-of-state driver’s licenses and their student IDs will not be accepted, and elderly residents of the state who were not born in North Carolina and will have to pay to get a birth certificate to validate their identity, otherwise known as a poll tax, or they cannot get a birth certificate at all. One of those people is Alberta Currie, a 78-year-old woman from Hope Mills, North Carolina. Currie was born at home with a midwife, like so many African-Americans in the Jim Crow South, and doesn’t have a birth certificate. Her driver’s license from Virginia is now expired. Though she’s voted consistently since 1956—back when African-Americans couldn’t even register to vote in the South or had to move to the back of the line when a white voter showed up at the polls—she could be disenfranchised by the new law. “I won’t have no rights if I can’t vote,” she says.

Try to relax, man. If that means unloading a heavy burden of words on a political blog, well. There are worse habits to have. :)

ACLU response to HB589 today

“This law is a disaster. Eliminating a huge part of early voting will cut off voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of citizens. It will turn Election Day into a mess, shoving more voters into even longer lines,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Florida similarly eliminated a week of early voting before the 2012 election, and we all know how that turned out – voters standing in line for hours, some having to wait until after the president’s acceptance speech to finally vote, and hundreds of thousands giving up in frustration. Those burdens fell disproportionately on African-American voters, and the same thing will happen in North Carolina. We should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder.”

hat tip to to Jack Register for sharing the post:

Martha Brock

That's exactly how they planned it

The GOP knew that such things would happen. Florida showed them. Florida is rolling back some of the most egregious voter suppression laws based on their 2012 election debacle. NC is enacting what FL is repealing, and then some.

It's all about ALEC seeing how far they can push things. As long as Tillisberger, Stam, Moffitt and the rest of the bought-and-paid-for crowd remain in power, this is the sh!t that will be continually sprayed on us.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Sen. Josh Stein comment, HB589

Josh Stein: "I am angry tonight." from FaceBook

This afternoon, outside of public view, Gov. McCrory signed the voter suppression/elections overhaul bill, ending any conceivable claim he could make to a shred of moderation. This bill is “the most sweeping anti-voter law in at least decades,” according to experts. In provision after provision, the law makes it more difficult for young people, seniors and minorities to vote. It is frankly un-American...

And if you had any question about the crass partisan motivation of Republican officials, read this article from Boone where the Republican members of the Board of Elections voted to shut down polling places on ASU's campus both in early voting and on election day. Their disdain for the people of NC is palpable.

I pledge to turn my anger into action. Will you?

I am proud to have Sen. Josh Stein as my state senator.

Martha Brock

regarding Attorney General Cooper

I believe that he is obligated to defend the law - he stated that when the Republicans passed the ridiculous law giving them equal standing to defend the state's laws in court. How vigorously he is obligated to defend them was not stated.

How vigorously indeed

RC: "Mr. Tillis, did you win the ALEC legislator of the year award in 2011?"
TT: "Damn straight"
RC: "No further questions"

Judge: "Mr. Cooper, do you have a closing statement?"
RC: "Yes, your honor. Tillis makes me sick, and I'm sorry we wasted your time. Can you BELIEVE this sh!t?"

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

That would be a bold but

That would be a bold but ultimately futile gesture. I would rather have him in office and having to do tasks he finds repulsive, rather than take a chance on who might replace him. He's one of the few members of the Council of State in whom I have complete faith.

It all depends on timing

I don't know enough about what would happen if he resigned to be definitive. I'd rather seem him simply refuse to defend the law.

Blame the Constitution

It puts the mechanisms for carrying out elections in the hands of the states. The Federal government has spent the past hundred plus years combatting attempts by Southern states to use that power to restrict the rights of minorities to vote. The sad part about all this is that NC is trying to once again fight a battle it lost many decades ago.

Statement from NAACP via email

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II Remarks at August 13, 2013 News Conference

Announcing NC NAACP Lawsuit Filed In Opposition To Voter Suppression Law

Yesterday on the 15th installment of Moral Monday, anticipating that the Governor would follow and kowtow to the actions of the extreme and immoral ultra regressive Republican majority of the General Assembly, we chose not to have a Moral Monday protest in the state but to do what the NAACP and Moral Monday Movement has promised and that is to have a legal strategy to fight against this General Assembly that we believed was constitutionally inconsistent and morally indefensible. And so yesterday on August 12, 2013, 48 years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, and 143 years after the ratification of the 15th amendment to the US Constitution which codified into law that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude", the NC NAACP on behalf of all our branches and members filed a complaint, along with Mrs. Rosanell Eaton, and other plaintiffs including Mrs. Carolyn Q. Coleman and Mrs. Mary Perry soon to be added, against the Governor of North Carolina in Middle District Federal Court.

The legal challenge is filed by the North Carolina NAACP; strong and knowledgeable North Carolina attorneys Adam Stein and Irving Joyner; The Advancement Project, a premier national civil rights organization led by Atty. Penda Hair; and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, along with Atty. Jamie Phillips and Atty. Al McSurely. It charges that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans voting procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups. The suit also challenges the law under the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

This bill is not just about voter ID requirements. It is 57 pages of regressive, unconstitutional acts to rig and manipulate elections through voter suppression. Our law suit will show how this voter suppression bill in its many eerie elements, revisits the tactics of Jim Crow in the 21st century are a form of what we have called for months James Crow Esquire tactics because each suppression tactic has a disproportionate, disparate, and discriminatory impact especially on African Americans and other minorities. This act of the Legislature and Governor is about race, an outright attempt to manipulate voting and the result of voting through suppressing the African American vote and the votes of others that expand the electorate in ways not often favorable to the support of a narrow and extreme political agenda.

It is an attempt to undermine fusion coalition political alliances in the New South between African Americans, other minorities and progressive Whites - which is why from Mitchell County in the mountains to Martin County in the Eastern Black Belt, North Carolinians are outraged by these actions.

The NC NAACP and the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are looking to the Forward Together Movement to expose the shameful acts of the extremists in the General Assembly, was the first to file a lawsuit after Gov. McCrory signed it privately. To add further insult and shame to this shameful act, he made a 96-second video filled with false accusations and misrepresentations of what is in this Monster Bill.

Concerning rights it took nearly 200 years to secure and protect from abridgement, in 96 seconds this Governor gave a pitiful, untruthful rationale for undermining our rights. The Governor, who supported and signed some of the most divisive legislation in North Carolina history, called us divisive. This Governor claimed this bill is about voter integrity, knowing full well it has nothing to do with integrity and everything to do with keeping his opponents from voting. This Governor claimed the law is about voter ID, knowing full well (if he read it) that the Senate threw in all the ALEC-drafted voter suppression laws it could find to strip every vote it could strip, from minorities and others who don't support his extremist policies. And he called this measure common sense legislation. We would call it common. Considering that one of the synonyms for common is vulgar - lacking sophistication or good taste; unrefined: "the vulgar trappings of wealth". His actions are a vulgar misuse of political power designed to manipulate and rig elections.

Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina Legislature are on the wrong side of history. This bill is against democracy and our most sacred constitutional values. This Anti-Voting Rights Bill tramples on the blood of our martyrs, desecrates the graves of freedom fighters, and in the 21st Century lines up with the extreme racially-driven philosophy of interposition and nullification promoted by past political figures like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond.

This Monster Bill is a direct attempt to suppress the civil rights of black people in North Carolina and to secure power through manipulation of the electorate are the ultimate crimes against democracy, driven by extremists in our state. For the Governor to sign this horrific bill less than a week after Julius Chambers was laid to rest is dishonorable.

A few years ago the NC General Assembly passed the most race-based redistricting plan we had seen since the 19th century after US Congressman Patrick McHenry openly acknowledged in the press that the Republican Party would in fact use race in designing its redistricting plan. Now this atrocious voter suppression bill the Governor signed, which represents the worst of every voting rights attack in the nation combined in one piece of legislation, seeks to end same day registration, limits early voting, unleashes vigilante poll observers, undoes public financing, disallows 16 and 17 year olds the ability to pre-register, and mandates a 21st century poll tax in the name of voter ID, is more restrictive than South Carolina and Alabama. As Bob Hall of Democracy NC, one of our fact advisors and documenters in this suit has noted this is a Monster Bill when it comes to voter suppression. Our attorneys will explain factually and statistically the data that supports this claim.

It should be noted that after denying Medicaid to 500,000, unemployment to 170,000, earned income tax credits to 900,000, changing the tax codes of NC to favor the wealthy, attacking public education, attacking public school teachers, attacking women's rights, labor rights, and over-expanding gun rights, now this group of extremist want to manipulate and cheat their way into and hold onto political power.

It seems as though this legislature and the Governor view the Supreme Court's Shelby decision in the same way the radicals of the South viewed the removal of the soldiers and sailors in 1877. Immediately after that, southern legislatures began to pass all forms of voter suppression and Jim Crow laws. We are not left-leaning groups. We challenge this bill because we are civil rights centered, constitutionally centered, and morally centered.

The 14th, 15th, and 24th amendments, and Section 2, 3 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act are still the law of the land. We will fight this race-based, immoral and regressive bill with everything we have. We beat slavery. We beat Jim Crow, even with a Supreme Court stacked against us. We will win again!