Defending a bad NC law exacts a high cost

While they were appealing to the fears and worst instincts of constituents when they made wrong-headed changes to election laws, Republican legislators didn’t tell those constituents something important.

That was that laws establishing a tough voter ID requirement, cutting the days of early voting and ending same-day registration would certainly be challenged in court. The laws were clearly aimed at suppressing the votes of the elderly and young, who tend to vote Democratic. Republicans bulldozed the changes through, though, and instead of letting Attorney General Roy Cooper handle the legal challenges, legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory hired private lawyers.

They didn’t trust Cooper because he raised questions about the legality of portions of the voter ID law. And those worries were merited. The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that parts of the law ending same-day registration and keeping people from casting provisional ballots out of their own precincts could not be instituted during the upcoming November election.

McCrory’s private lawyer has already billed the state over $300,000 at $360 an hour to fight a federal lawsuit about the election law changes. The General Assembly, meaning Republican leaders, has its own lawyers to defend its misguided actions. The tab is over $1 million.

Cooper’s office recently defended the election law in a federal appeals court. Cooper, likely to run for governor in 2016, has not been shirking his duty as the state’s lawyer.

What a misadventure this has been, and an expensive one to boot. Voter ID was sold as a measure to prevent voter fraud. But voter fraud in North Carolina has been virtually nonexistent. Other changes were nothing more than an attempt to suppress Democratic votes.

So now Republicans, those tax-cutting, public education-cutting guardians of the public purse, are opening it wide to pay legal fees to defend their mistakes.