Republicans to intervene in lawsuits over election reforms 

RALEIGH — NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley delivers remarks during a press conference held on July 23, 2020 at NCGOP headquarters in Raleigh. Photo credit: A.P. Dillon, North State Journal

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Republican Party (NCGOP), along with the Republican National Committee (RNC), has filed court documents to intervene in three lawsuits against election law changes enacted by the General Assembly during the 2023 Long Session. 

Per a press release, the NCGOP said the intervention was to combat “Democrats’ baseless ‘Sue til Blue’ attack on Senate Bill 747 and to defend election integrity in North Carolina.” 

“Only Democrats would oppose legislation that prevents non-citizens from voting, protects bipartisan poll watchers, and eliminates dark money in elections—all measures that are strongly supported by the People of North Carolina,” NCGOP Chairman and General Counsel for the RNC Michael Whatley said in a press release. “We are proud to stand with North Carolinians in court by intervening in this case and ensuring our elections are secure.” 

The three cases where the NCGOP and RNC have filed motions include those brought by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the N.C. Democratic Party (NCDP); Voto Latino, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force, and Down Home North Carolina; as well as one filed by Democracy NC, N.C. Black Alliance, and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.  

Senate Bill 747 became law on Oct. 10 following successful veto override votes in both chambers of the legislature. 

The new elections law takes effect as of Jan. 1, 2024, and key provisions include changes to absentee ballot return times as well as barring outside money sources. 

The NCGOP and RNC’s motion filings mention N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s public objections to Senate Bill 747 and that because of those statements, he likely won’t “vigorously defend” the state in the cases. 

“The Democratic Attorney General whose office is responsible for representing the majority of Defendants (who are also mostly Democrats) has publicly opposed S.B. 747,” the Republican complaints contend. “It is unlikely that Democratic Party officials will vigorously defend laws they have publicly opposed from challenges by eight Democratic Party-affiliated (or allied) organizations.” 

Stein, who is running to replace Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2024, urged lawmakers to uphold the governor’s veto of the bill on his campaign website in an Aug. 24 post 

In the post on his campaign website, Stein prefaced his support for the governor’s veto by writing, “Dangerous lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, including false claims perpetuated by far-right extremists like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, threaten our democracy and have given rise to voter suppression efforts like Senate Bill 747.” 

N.C. Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said the law was an “all out attack on democracy itself.” 

Democracy NC along with the other plaintiffs in that lawsuit are being represented by attorneys with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice which was co-founded by N.C. Associate Justice Anita Earls and recent N.C. Supreme Court appointee Allison Riggs.  

“There is indeed a long and troubling history in North Carolina of lawmakers making blatant attempts to restrict voting access for young voters. Yet those leading such efforts forget what has always followed — a series of champions challenging such suppression across the political spectrum,” Democracy NC’s Co-Executive Director Cheryl Carter said in a statement on the lawsuit. 

Former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias will be representing the plaintiffs in the case brought by Voto Latino through his self-run organization, Democracy Docket. 

“The plaintiffs allege that the Undeliverable Mail Provision violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and places an undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the First and 14th Amendments,” according to a statement by Elias at the time the lawsuit was filed. “The plaintiffs request that the court declare the provision unconstitutional and prevent its enforcement.”  

On Oct. 6, Elias had posted to X that if the General Assembly overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 747, he and his team would sue, adding, “As they know, I don’t bluff and my team usually wins.”   

In an Oct. 11 post to X, Elias cited his prior Oct. 6 post and stated, “I warned the GOP, I don’t bluff. Now, we will win.” 

Elias was previously an attorney with the D.C.-based firm Perkins Coie which he left in summer 2021. Earlier that year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to keep “unprecedented” sanctions on Elias in place that pertained to a case involving straight-ticket voting in Texas.  

According to Reuters, the sanctions came after Elias and his team had “filed a supplemental motion in February that was nearly identical to one filed in September that was denied, without disclosing the previous denial.” 

In 2020, Elias led lawsuits in a number of states, including North Carolina, in an effort to loosen absentee ballot rules. 

About A.P. Dillon 1137 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_