The law, passed in 2013, was found by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” After key provisions of the law were struck down last July, the ruling was appealed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Cooper and Stein sent a letter discharging outside legal counsel on Tuesday and formally withdrew the requests from the executive branch and the N.C. Department of Justice for the Court to review the case.
“It’s time for North Carolina to stop fighting for this unfair, unconstitutional law and work instead to improve equal access for voters,” Cooper said in a statement.
Laura Brewer, a N.C. DOJ spokesperson, said the U.S. Supreme Court has the choice to either grant the petition for withdrawal or to hear the case.
Some Republican legislative leaders decried the move by Cooper and Stein.
Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, president pro tempore of the N.C. Senate, and Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, speaker of the N.C. House of Representatives, said in a joint statement they expect the courts would reject the withdrawal.
“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 said.
Mitch Kokai, spokesperson for the John Locke Foundation, said the General Assembly hired private attorneys to work on its behalf for this case.
“Legislative leaders are arguing that Gov. Cooper and Attorney General Stein do not have a legal right to discharge those attorneys,” he said.
If the Supreme Court does not decide to hear the case, Kokai said legislators could draft another voter ID law.
N.C. Democratic Party Chairperson Wayne Goodwin released a statement Tuesday applauding the decision.
“A wide body of evidence, including a federal court ruling, has conclusively shown that the voting law passed by the General Assembly was racially targeted and motivated solely by a desire to consolidate political power,” he said in the statement.
Jacob Smith, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at UNC, said the withdrawal signals a change in direction from the McCrory administration.
“While Roy Cooper has to deal with a veto-proof General Assembly, he does have someone in the attorney general’s office who may be helpful and on the same page,” Smith said.