RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina's Attorney General will no longer defend the state's voter ID law, Governor Pat McCrory announced Tuesday morning.
Last week,a federal appeals court has found that the law was enacted "with discriminatory intent" and must be blocked.
"The 4th Circuit has unanimously said that the governor and legislature have engaged in intentional discrimination to make it harder to register and vote, and two other Circuits have struck down similar laws. The governor is wasting taxpayer money in trying to defend the indefensible," Ford Porter, communications director for Cooper for North Carolina, said Tuesday.
"It is amazing that the Attorney General will not fulfill the duty of his oath of office to defend our laws of North Carolina," said Governor Pat McCrory. "In fact, I question if he should even accept a pay check anymore from the state of North Carolina."
"Roy Cooper is against common sense voter ID and is now refusing to do his job to defend our laws, so he should refuse his taxpayer-funded salary," McCrory continued. "If any North Carolina citizen decided not to do their job, they would no longer have a paycheck. Roy Cooper should not be held to a different standard. Roy Cooper's refusal to do his job is costing taxpayers money, so his office must reimburse taxpayers immediately."
An opinion issued Friday by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reverses a lower-court's ruling that had upheld the law.
The 2013 rewrite to voting laws in North Carolina required photo identification to cast in-person ballots and made other changes.
McCrory told reporters Tuesday morning "we will continue to appeal this," saying attorneys are figuring out a way forward. He called the 4th Circuit opinion "very political" referencing that the panel of judges was made up from two President Obama appointees and one appointed by President Clinton.
The North Carolina Republican Party (NCGOP) released a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"Once again Roy Cooper is refusing to do the job that taxpayers are paying him for. By not defending North Carolina's popular and constitutional voter I.D. law, Cooper is declaring North Carolinians second class citizens with fewer rights to protect against voter fraud," said NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse. "Cooper is still receiving a steady taxpayer funded paycheck even though North Carolina is now forced to pay for outside council to represent the state in this case. Roy Cooper should do the right thing for once and reimburse the state for the cost necessary to hire others to do his job. A good question for voters is-- why give Roy Cooper a promotion when he refuses to do the job he already has?"
Minutes before Governor McCrory's announcement, Attorney General Roy Cooper told reporters he expected the voter ID decision to stand and said he thought the boards of election across the state would have time to adjust to the ruling.
"I think this is what we are going to have," said Attorney General Roy Cooper. "It was a pointed ruling and the board of elections needs to get to work."
"Attorneys with our office put forward their best arguments but the court found that the law was intentional discrimination and we will not appeal," Noelle Talley, Public Information Officer for the N.C. Department of Justice said Tuesday. "Other parties are adequately represented if they choose to appeal further, although additional appeals would only incur more expense and foster uncertainty with the approaching election and early voting."
McCrory said the primary elections with the voter ID law in place when "extremely well."
This is hardly the first time the two have clashed. Most recently with Cooper's refusal to defend the state in the HB2 debate.
"When are they going to learn that you can't just run rough shod over the constitution? You have to pass laws that are in line with the state and federal constitution and we need to start doing that in North Carolina," said AG Cooper.
"The AG had no problem participating in an appeal when a judge ruled in favor of voter ID. It is only when they rule against photo ID that the AG decides not to do his job. So, he is obviously allowing his political opinion impact his job," said Governor McCrory.
The U.S. Justice Department, state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others sued the state, saying the restrictions violated the remaining provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.