WASHINGTON – Gov. Roy Cooper (D) called the Supreme Court’s rejection of an attempt to resurrect North Carolina’s voter ID law only a “temporary win” because he expects the state legislature to pass a similar law in the near future.
“North Carolina is an epicenter in the country for the fight for the right to vote. When you look at what the North Carolina Republican legislature has done over the last few years, it’s been disastrous. The Fourth Circuit said the North Carolina Republican legislature discriminated against African-Americans with surgical precision. They actually asked for data on the habits of African-Americans and how they voted and drafted their legislation accordingly and the court, thankfully, saw through that,” Cooper said at the Center for American Progress’ Ideas Conference on Tuesday.
“But this general assembly doesn’t stop. This was a temporary win yesterday. My Republican governor predecessor appealed this to the Supreme Court. I withdrew that appeal, which helped us to get the Supreme Court not to hear it – but this legislature probably within 10 days will pass another kind of law that will probably eliminate, again, same-day registration, will still have some type of voter ID requirement,” he added.
On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to consider reinstatement of North Carolina’s voter ID law that was struck down in July by a unanimous decision of a three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The 2013 law killed same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting, reduced the early voting period, and required approved forms of photo ID at the polling place.
Cooper said the state legislature attempted to “take away” his ability as governor to administer elections because he wants to make it “easier” for people to register to vote and cast their ballots.
“We need to expand people’s abilities and we can’t have state legislatures discriminating against certain people because of who they are or what color they are,” Cooper said.
“We want everybody to participate in the process, so they passed legislation taking that authority away from the governor. I vetoed it. They overrode my veto because they have supermajorities in both chambers. I sued them. The court struck it down. So, they again repackaged it – put a little lipstick on it and passed it again. I vetoed it again. They overrode it again and the court again slapped it down. And you’re going to see that with this voter law, too,” he added.
Cooper continued, “I’m certain that the courts will deal with it. I feel confident that they will, but it is important for us to realize what is happening in North Carolina. In 2018, we’re going to make some changes in this legislature, but until then we’re just going to have to keep fighting.”
Cooper also told the conference that the “economy overall” has gotten better in his state but middle-class wages are stagnant.
“Unemployment has improved, but for that middle-class family or that family that’s working to try to get into the middle class – a mom who has two kids – she wants to educate them. Their wages are stagnant. Things really haven’t gotten better for them and out of frustration, a lot of them voted for Donald Trump hoping that some change would come to their lives. And I think what we have to do, as Democrats and as Democratic leaders, we have to have a positive pocketbook message for them,” Cooper said.
“I want to make sure that we do that. I’m going to emphasize education, early childhood all the way through our great community colleges and universities. The CEOs that I talk to about coming and expanding in North Carolina, their first question to me is not ‘what is your tax rate,’ even though it’s the lowest in the southeast. Their first question is, ‘do you have people that can perform jobs I create?’ We can put more money in their pockets with those better-paying jobs if we have the training and the skills,” he said.
Cooper pledged to make North Carolina a top 10 educated state by 2025.
“You can do that with empirical data, you can do that by getting more kids in pre-K, which my budgets reflects. We want to get to 55 percent from the 22 percent where we are now by getting more kids graduated from high school,” he said. “We need to be in the 90s, and more people with advanced degrees and certificates that can help land them these better-paying jobs in the new economy. Because it’s chicken and egg – these companies will come if you have the workforce.”
Cooper endorsed free community college for North Carolina residents.
“Free community college is a way for middle-class and working-class families to get the education they need to get that better-paying job. College affordability is critical. I proposed it and I’ve argued to the Republican legislature that this is being done by Republicans because they see the economic benefit that results from it. We’re also going to work to try to get kids to understand that there are certain certificates now that can help them with advanced manufacturing and with other good-paying jobs,” Cooper said.
“A kid really who is having hard time affording that two- or even that four-year degree could step into a job making $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 a year with a certificate, but we have to have our community colleges and our universities that are nimble, that are ready to customize training for these kinds of companies that want to come and expand in our state and it can be a very positive thing,” he added.