The state of North Carolina issued its response to a pair of lawsuits about the election reform bill on Monday, asking the federal courts, in both cases, to dismiss the complaints and to force the plaintiffs to pay attorneys' fees and costs.
The state faces one lawsuit led by the League of Women Voters and another led by the state NAACP. The lawsuits stem from House Bill 589, which established new rules for voter identification and changed early voting parameters.
The NAACP claims the bill targets minorities, but Gov. Pat McCrory has called it "common sense" to ask for voter identifications.
"The governor has no intention of distancing himself from a common sense law that is supported by the people of this state and protects the integrity of the voting process," Bob Stephens, the chief legal counsel for the governor, said in a statement. "The allegations made by the plaintiffs are simply wrong as a matter of law and fact. The governor remains confident that the law will be upheld."
McCrory, speaking Monday to the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the law "protects the integrity of our ballot box." He called the lawsuits "political and without merit," according to the Associated Press.
The new rules will make photo identifications mandatory by 2016, but the law is much broader than that. It eliminates same-day registration for early voting and cuts the number of early voting days.
The 19-page legal response to the lawsuit from the League of Women Voters denies a host of allegations in lengthy, and specific, legal language. But the essence of the response is that the state is asking the federal Middle District court to deny the charges.
The defense of the lawsuit led by the NAACP contains similar terse language. For example, the state admits that the NAACP "is an organization."
But, the defense states, "Defendants deny that the NAACP or its members will be impacted or harmed by the enacted legislation."
"They set out no justification for the law," Penda Hair, a Washington-based civil rights attorney, said in a conference call. Hair said "we believe we have a very strong and compelling case" to block what the challengers call a deliberate effort by Republican legislative leaders and McCrory to discourage blacks and other groups from voting.
"Voting is really the basic foundation of our democracy and no elected official should attempt to make it harder for people to participate," state NAACP president the Rev. William Barber said.
North Carolina argues that House Bill 589, the "Voter Information Verification Act," does not violate the 14th or 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment states that no state can make or enforce a law that abridges the rights of its citizens. The 15th Amendment states that the right of citizens to vote "shall not be denied or abridged."
Both responses bear the name of Democrat Roy Cooper, the state Attorney General, and Karl "Butch" Bowers, the South Carolina lawyer with deep Republican ties who was hired by Gov. Pat McCrory's office to help defend the suits. The Republicans have challenged whether Cooper, who plans to run for governor in 2016, will aggressively defend the lawsuits, while Cooper has said he will faithfully execute his office.
Cooper had asked McCrory to veto the bill, saying it would lead to expensive litigation.
"With a veto, you can encourage more people to be involved in the political process, stop this bad public policy and prevent the confusion and cost of legal battle," Cooper wrote McCrory.
Bob Stephens, the governor's legal counsel, later ripped Cooper, saying the comments compromised Cooper's ability to defend a bill that had been properly passed.
North Carolina also faces a federal lawsuit the Department of Justice over the election reform bill.