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Wednesday, 17 August 2016 15:41

HB2 and Voter ID controversies boost Cooper’s campaign

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North Carolinians can debate whether a few of the controversial laws enacted by the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly and supported by Gov. Pat McCrory are unconstitutional or not, but it seems the courts are leaning toward striking them down. 

More importantly, perhaps, are that the legal challenges keep landing Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Attorney General Roy Cooper on the front pages of many of the state’s newspapers. Indeed, the controversy over these laws may just help Cooper unseat McCrory from the governor’s office, which would be a positive step for North Carolina.

Gov. McCrory has been a major disappointment. As many have pointed out, he came to Raleigh in 2012 with a reputation as a moderate Charlotte mayor who was more pragmatic than ideological. His tenure in the Queen City coincided with an unprecedented era of growth and a spirit of cooperation between local government and business interests that helped transform the entire Charlotte metro area.

Unfortunately, he just hasn’t mustered the backbone to stand up to the conservative General Assembly leadership, and instead has buckled under as they have re-branded North Carolina as one of the South’s most socially conservative states.

In the last few months, North Carolina Republicans —Gov. McCrory included — have been complaining about Cooper’s lackadaisical defense of some of their most outrageous actions. I’m talking, of course, about the strict 2013 voter ID law and the controversial HB2.

In July, an Appeals Court unanimously overturned the voting law that included the photo ID mandate and several other restrictions, including shortening of the early voting period, prohibiting same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, and eliminating pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

After the ruling, Cooper made headlines when he said the Appeals Court was right, that he agreed with their reasoning, and that his office would not participate in an appeal to a higher court. 

“I think this is what we’re going to have,” Cooper told the Raleigh News & Observer. “The Board of Elections needs to work on expanding the early voting hours, making sure that same-day registration is re-instituted, and obviously the voter ID portion would not be allowed any more.”

He added: “The courts keep striking down these laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. When are they going to learn that you just can’t run roughshod over the Constitution? That you have to pass laws that are within the framework of the state and federal constitutions? We need to start doing that in North Carolina.”

Just this week, Gov. McCrory formally asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to stay the Appeals Court ruling until after this election, saying there is not enough time to make all the changes before November.

Back in March, Cooper said he would not defend the state against legal challenges from the U.S. Justice Department over House Bill 2. House Bill 2 blocks local anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people. The law requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with the gender on their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity.

“Our office will not represent the governor and the legislature in defending lawsuits dealing with the constitutionality of this law …. The governor and the legislature should repeal this law,” Cooper said at the time.

So as Cooper reaps the benefits — a la Donald Trump — of free media coverage because of the state’s outrageous actions, his polling numbers are going up. A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released last week shows him leading McCrory 51 percent to 44 percent. Polling has showed this race to be close all summer, but some suggest Trump’s loose cannon campaign may be helping Democratic candidates like Cooper.

Both the Voter ID and HB2 laws fit into the category of “solutions in search of problems.” Both do more harm than good, but in the end they may help us oust an ineffective governor who is simply not providing the brand of leadership North Carolina needs.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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