Cooper back to trial court seeking to block 2 amendments
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday quickly resumed his bid in a local court to halt referendums on two new constitutional amendments the legislature rewrote in time for fall ballots.
Attorneys for the Democratic governor filed altered and repackaged allegations in Wake County Superior Court. They contend the latest versions of the ballot questions contain misinformation and omissions and are thus unconstitutional, just like the original questions the Republican-dominated General Assembly approved in June.
The legislature wrapped up a special session this week and replaced the two amendments and their questions, which GOP leaders say addressed the concerns of the majority on a three-judge panel last week about the accuracy of the referendums.
Cooper says problems persist with the new questions, which if approved in November would swing powers over filling judicial vacancies and controlling the membership of the state election board from the governor to the legislature.
“They are still misleading, and they still fail to inform the voters and enable them to make an intelligent decision concerning the new proposed amendments,” John Wester, a private attorney for Cooper, wrote in a separate request for the court to issue a temporary, immediate order keeping them off the ballot. The same three-judge panel scheduled a Friday hearing to consider that request.
Cooper’s lawyers refiled litigation because the state Supreme Court declined Wednesday to allow the governor to present his new accusations against the new questions by adding them during appeals to his earlier lawsuit. Similar rulings affected a separate lawsuit filed by two interest groups that want to block four of the six amendment questions the legislature approved for this year’s ballot.
The governor’s amended complaint filed Thursday could stretch out the case longer, even as state election officials have said they need to finalize and print ballots very soon to meet a Sept. 22 federal deadline to provide them to overseas and military voters. But the Supreme Court on Wednesday also ordered that activity be halted until they say otherwise.
Senate leader Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican and defendant in the lawsuits, wanted Cooper to drop his legal challenges so the balloting process can resume.
“The legislature complied with a judicial decision with which it disagreed,” Berger said Thursday in a release, referring to last week’s ruling blocking the original amendments. So “it’s time for Gov. Cooper to do the same and let the people of North Carolina vote on how they wish to structure their own government.”
In a statement Wednesday, the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said while the process to finalize the ballots should start around Sept. 1, board staff members are “exploring additional options to ensure federal compliance if delays continue.”