The following is a column by Mark Shiver, host of the “What Matters in North Carolina” podcast.
Gov. Roy Cooper seemingly is intent on undoing years of great work done on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina with the simple stroke of his pen. Along with Democrat Attorney General Josh Stein, Cooper is attempting to cut the legs out from under any chance of judicial salvation for the state’s commonsense voter ID law.
For some who voted for Cooper to be governor, this may not have been a foreseen consequence.
As reported by the News & Observer on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Cooper’s chief counsel (along with Stein) sent a letter dismissing private attorneys who had been representing the state in an appeal of a ruling last year by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That ruling found key provisions of a 2013 elections law overhaul to be unconstitutional. Cooper had originally not objected to the services of these attorneys when, as attorney general, he refused to defend the state in the lawsuit.
Essentially Cooper and Stein are initiating steps to withdraw the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court filed by former Gov. Pat McCrory in the case of NAACP v. North Carolina. This case involves the elections reforms law that was passed in 2013, which includes a requirement that voters present an ID at the polls before voting.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly have cried foul regarding the move by Cooper and Stein. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Speaker of the House of Representatives Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said in a statement, “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. We expect the courts to reject this unethical stunt ….”
Berger and Moore also made reference to the fact that the voter ID legislation is very popular in North Carolina, citing a 2014 Elon University Poll that showed 70 percent of those polled favored voter ID. Since the law is very popular, and Cooper barely beat McCrory, it can be inferred that there are those who voted for Cooper who may not have considered that he would interfere with the judicial process that could very well restore the voter ID law in North Carolina.
Knowing in advance that this scheme would be hatched by Cooper and Stein might not have caused people to change their votes. But, it does illustrate that there are consequences to the outcomes of elections.
Cooper’s administration has also asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to allow North Carolina to withdraw from a challenge to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Under McCrory, the state joined multiple states in a legal challenge to the plan, saying it is a huge regulatory overreach that will harm business and cost the state enormous sums of money to comply with the plan’s carbon reduction mandates.
This is another example of how a governor can use his position to interrupt and interfere with a legal case in midstream. It would not be surprising to find that many people who oppose the type of massive federal government overreach that is the Clean Power Plan never considered the power of a governor to yank the state off of a legal challenge when casting their votes.
Most people vote for a party candidate or for personality or likeability. It is likely that the average voter does not dig into the minutiae of questions such as, “What legal challenges could the state drop if candidate X wins?” But these two schemes by the Cooper administration to jettison North Carolina from legitimate judicial proceedings are prime examples of the consequence of elections.
Under President Trump, the Clean Power Plan’s future is unknown. The same goes for the future of voter ID legislation under the U.S. Supreme Court if Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed and tilts the court in a conservative direction. But, in the here and now, the consequences of electing Cooper are illustrating vividly that the impact of who wins an election can go a long way.