Updated at 1 p.m. May 16 to include comments from Wake Forest University law professor Michael Curtis

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down the Republican-led General Assembly’s laws requiring voter identification at the polls, altering early voting, and abolishing same-day voter registration. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper wasted no time hailing the decision and using it as a fundraising tool.

Greg Wallace, a constitutional law professor at Campbell Law School, said, “I certainly think it’s a win for Cooper and [Democratic Attorney General Josh] Stein, and those that were challenging the law.”

There are many reasons the Supreme Court denies review, and it’s hard to determine why, Wallace said. It’s especially difficult in this case because Chief Justice John Roberts clearly stated the court’s denial to review the case has nothing to do with the merits of the lawsuit.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said the decision did not address the merits of the case. They said they will continue fighting the appellate court decision.

Cooper celebrated the decision. “Today’s announcement is good news for North Carolina voters. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder, and the court found this law sought to discriminate against African-American voters with ‘surgical precision,’” Cooper said in a written statement. “I will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process.”

In a separate press release issued by his political campaign, Cooper urged recipients of the e-mail: “If you’re with me in this fight, chip in today.” A link was provided for campaign contributions.

Wallace said it was curious that Roberts laid out questions about who has standing to defend the law. They included whether the legislature has standing to defend the law in federal court if a state’s attorney general and governor refuse to do so.

He noted that there is precedent at the federal level when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The U.S. House intervened to defend the law, but ultimately lost the case.

In a joint statement, Berger and Moore lashed out at Cooper and Stein. They ignored state law, and flouted conflicts of interest to kill voter ID in North Carolina, the lawmakers said.

In February, Cooper and Stein asked the federal justices to dismiss the state’s case, which had been brought by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory shortly before he left office.

Berger and Moore said at the time the move violated state law because outside counsel had been hired to defend the election laws.

Neither Cooper nor Stein had authority to fire outside lawyers or terminate their appeal, according to Berger and Moore.

Stein had testified on behalf of left-leaning interest groups that opposed the voter ID law before he ran for attorney general. Stein’s father also had represented the plaintiffs in the voter ID case, Berger and Moore’ release said.

They said those conflicts of interest should have prevented Stein from representing the state.

Michael Curtis, a law professor at Wake Forest University, offers another perspective.
He said the Supreme Court has several other cases before it involving the North Carolina Republican majority’s use of race in the pursuit of partisan entrenchment.
“These cases involve using racial quotas to pack more black voters into revised districts where the prior districts had already been electing blacks by thumping majorities — thus wasting black votes,” he said. “Dramatic racial gerrymanders in North Carolina included drawing a white senator out of her district because too many black voters in her district had preferred a senator of the wrong color  — from the point of view of one of the legislatures’ racial quotas.
Another pending case in North Carolina challenges an extreme and admitted partisan gerrymanders.
“The common denominator of these challenged laws is the legislature’s search for partisan entrenchment, which will protect incumbent Republican legislators from the hazards of truly democratic and competitive elections,” Curtis said.
“Almost all Supreme Court justices have recognized that partisan gerrymanders are anti-democratic. Current federal cases involve partisan gerrymanders by Democrats in Maryland and by Republicans in Wisconsin and North Carolina. The open question is whether the Supreme Court will allow lower federal courts to do anything about them. State courts have their own state constitutions, and some of them may act to preserve democratic elections.”