Attorney general: North Carolina voting law should end

By GARY D. ROBERTSON
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court should dismiss the appeal of a ruling that struck down a North Carolina voting law based on racial bias, the state's new Democratic attorney general says. Lawyers for Republican lawmakers still want the appeal considered.

Attorney General Josh Stein's office also rejected accusations made by the GOP's lawyers that he had a conflict that disqualifies him in the matter.

Stein was a state senator opposed to the 2013 law and testified in the trial for the groups and voters who challenged the law. It required photo identification to vote in person, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration during the early-vote period.

"These ethics claims lack merit," says the brief filed Thursday and signed by Stein's chief deputy Grayson Kelley. "They also err by trying to turn this court into a forum for unseemly political attacks."

Then-Gov. Pat McCrory and fellow GOP legislators appealed last summer's ruling of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which threw out the law. The judges determined the General Assembly enacted it with intentional discrimination in mind against black voters who overwhelmingly voted Democratic. Then-Attorney General Roy Cooper had said he wouldn't defend the law anymore.

The GOP leaders had hired private lawyers to work alongside Cooper's office to defend the law and some of those same private attorneys filed the appeal. Republicans said the voting law was designed to improve public confidence in elections and wasn't racially discriminatory.

But last month Cooper -- now governor -- and Stein asked the justices to withdraw the state's petition for a high court review.

Lawyers for the Republican leaders wrote the justices two weeks ago saying Stein had no authority to step in, pointing to another state law allowing the legislators to hire their own attorneys to defend challenged laws.

Kelley argued the legislature doesn't control litigation on behalf of the state unless it's a named party in the lawsuits. It's not a named defendant in this case.

The law "does not empower the General Assembly to step into the shoes of the attorney general and control litigation on behalf of the state itself," the brief reads.

Kelley wrote Stein's trial testimony mainly "covered matters of public record" related to the circumstances leading to the voting law's passage and did not constitute a "personal interest" in the case. President Barack Obama's Department of Justice also sued over the law.