Gov. McCrory says Justice Department's voting lawsuit is 'overreach and without merit'

jfrank@newsobserver.comSeptember 30, 2013 

— Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday called the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against North Carolina’s voting law “overreach and without merit.”

“I firmly believe we’ve done the right thing. I believe this is good law. And I strongly disagree with the action that the attorney general has taken,” McCrory told reporters.

The governor, dressed more casually than normal after his visit to the N.C. Zoo earlier in the day, struck a defiant tone in his remarks. He cast the legal battle as a matter of state’s rights, saying he would “defend our right to have common sense laws right here in North Carolina.”

McCrory called the move political and fired back at President Barack Obama, citing a video — from a year ago — showing the president presenting an identification card to vote in Chicago. “I believe if showing a voter ID is good enough and fair enough for our own president in Illinois, it’s good enough for the people in North Carolina,” he said. “I think it is obviously influenced by national politics since the Justice Department ignores similar laws in other blue states.”

Illinois does not have a law requiring a photo identification at the polls on Election Day. But the state requires voters who vote early – as the president did in 2012 – to present a government-issued photo ID.

The governor said the state has hired an outside law firm to rebut the lawsuit in coordination with the state attorney general. The governor’s office could not immediately provide the firm’s name.

“This lawsuit will only result in costly legal bills and drawn out legal battles for state and federal taxpayers,” he said.

Focusing his remarks on the voter ID provision in the lengthy elections bill, McCrory called the new law “common sense legislation” and emphasized that 34 other states want voters to show an photo identification card at the polls. He barely touched on the more than two dozen other provisions in the law, including measure to limit early voting and end same-day voter registration. He emphasized that the law will allow people to get a free state ID card starting in January.

“I believe our federal attorney general disagrees with the vast majority of citizens in North Carolina on this issue. I believe the federal government action is an overreach and without merit,” he said.

McCrory declined to take questions after addressing reporters.

Earlier in the day, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis called the federal prosecutors claims “baseless.”

Reacting to the lawsuit, the two Republican legislative leaders issued a joint statement saying it is “nothing more than an obvious attempt to quash the will of the voters and hinder a hugely popular voter ID requirement.’

“The law was designed to improve consistency, clarity and uniformity at the polls and it brings North Carolina’s election system in line with a majority of other states,” the statement continued. “We are confident it protects the right of all voters, as required by the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions.”

Meanwhile, Democrats and interest groups cheered the move, including U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who had urged the Justice Department to review the law.

“Now is not the time to be putting up barriers to the right to vote, and I applaud the Justice Department’s decision to challenge the new voter access restrictions in North Carolina that would, among other things, cut off a week of early voting and end same day registration,” Hagan said in a statement. “We shouldn’t be giving everyday North Carolinians fewer opportunities to make their voices heard while we are giving corporations more opportunities to influence elections.”

Frank: 919-829-4698

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