National, state GOP seek to intervene in three federal NC election lawsuits

Source: Carolina Journal

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  • The Republican National Committee, North Carolina Republican Party, and two local GOP officials seek to intervene in three federal lawsuits challenging the state's new election law.
  • Republican state legislative leaders already have requested intervention in the three suits filed by the Democratic Party and left-of-center activist groups.
  • The challenged law — Senate Bill 747 — included targeted provisions dealing with same-day voter registration, an Election Day deadline for mailed-in absentee ballots, and new rules for party-aligned poll observers.

The Republican National Committee, North Carolina Republican Party, and two local GOP officials are asking a federal court to allow them to intervene in three lawsuits challenging the state’s new election law.

The Democratic National Committee and North Carolina Democratic Party filed one of the suits. A group of plaintiffs working with Democratic lawyer Marc Elias’ law firm filed a second. Activist group Democracy NC filed a third.

All three challenge provisions in Senate Bill 747, enacted earlier this month over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Challenged provisions include items related to same-day voter registration, party-aligned poll observers, and a new Election Day deadline for mailed-in absentee ballots.

Republican state legislative leaders already have filed paperwork to intervene in the three cases. The RNC and state GOP filed their own motions Thursday. The two organizations are also seeking intervention from former Cumberland County Republican Party chair Brenda Eldridge and current Pasquotank County chair Virginia Ann Wasserberg. Eldridge and Wasserberg also have worked as poll observers.

“The way to inspire confidence in American elections — and their outcomes — is to apply rules that are clear and fair to all eligible voters, candidates, and political groups,” according to a memorandum filed in connection with the GOP’s motion to intervene. “Toward that end, the North Carolina General Assembly recently passed S.B. 747, which revises the State’s election code to provide appropriate safeguards and transparency while still offering voters ample opportunities to cast a ballot.”

“In ordinary political climates, this pedestrian [law] would be welcomed as part of the ‘substantial regulation of elections’ that is necessary ‘if they are to be fair and honest and if some sort of order, rather than chaos, is to accompany the democratic processes,’” the memo continued. “But as a sign of the times, S.B. 747 met immediate litigation, as eight Democratic Party-affiliated organizations and allies, represented by six law firms, filed three lawsuits in this Court, two of them the same day S.B. 747 passed.”

“Armed with hyperbole and mischaracterization, these Plaintiffs pose a long list of objections to various aspects of S.B. 747,” Republican lawyers argued. “These include far-reaching assertions, such as that an election-day ballot-receipt deadline violates the Constitution and that the Voting Rights Act forbids poll-observer participation at voting places. One set of Plaintiffs has already moved for provisional relief, and similar requests may follow from the others.”

“The question before the Court today is not whether any of these challenges has merit, but whether this litigation of paramount public importance will proceed with or without the participation of one of the nation’s two major political parties,” Republican lawyers wrote.

Neither the Democratic Party-aligned plaintiffs nor the State Board of Elections defendants are taking a position on GOP participation in the three cases, according to the memo.

“There is good reason for the Court to grant this motion,” Republican lawyers argued. “The State’s executive branch is unlikely to vigorously defend S.B. 747, which passed over the Governor’s veto. And although the State’s legislative leaders have moved to intervene (as is their right), this state of affairs will (at best) place eight entity Plaintiffs represented by six law firms against one set of institutional-capacity intervenors represented by one law firm.”

“One need not doubt the superb skill of that latter firm to see that this case, as currently postured, lacks the parity necessary to ensure public confidence in the outcome,” the GOP memo continued. “As the Democratic Party itself observed, ‘political parties usually have good cause to intervene in disputes over election rules.’ That is why, in numerous cases concerning election rules, political parties are virtually always allowed to intervene. If intervention is appropriate in any election case, this is it.”

SB 747 became law on Oct. 10 when the state House and Senate voted to override Cooper’s veto of the election reform measure.

In addition to a Democratic governor’s veto, the Republican memo noted that Democratic state Attorney General Josh Stein “has publicly opposed” the new election law. “It is unlikely that Democratic Party officials will vigorously defend laws they have publicly opposed from challenges by eight Democratic Party-affiliated (or allied) organizations,” GOP lawyers argued.