December 19, 2018 / 6:10 PM / 2 months ago

Republicans still pushing lame-duck priorities in Michigan, North Carolina

(Reuters) - North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature enacted a voter identification requirement on Wednesday, overriding Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto just weeks before they lose the power to do so.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer reacts with her lieutenant Governor elect Garlin Gilchrist after declaring victory at her midterm election night party in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalskye/File Photo

The move was among a series of last-minute steps taken by Republican lawmakers in several states following Democratic wins in November’s elections. Democrats have castigated the efforts as power grabs, while Republicans have said they are simply doing their jobs.

In Michigan, a Republican-backed bill that would curb the authority of the incoming Democratic secretary of state appeared dead on Wednesday. But other legislation that restricts Democrats’ powers remains on the table, weeks after Democrats won the governor, attorney general and secretary of state’s offices to end eight years of complete Republican control of the state’s government.

In neighboring Wisconsin, where Democrats also captured the governorship and other statewide offices to break Republicans’ eight-year hold on the capitol, outgoing Republican Governor Scott Walker last week signed several bills limiting the powers of incoming Democrats. Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers has said he will consider filing a legal challenge.

The moves are reminiscent of North Carolina in 2016, when Republican legislators similarly targeted incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Many of those laws have been challenged in court.

Last week in North Carolina, Cooper said he vetoed the state’s voter ID law because it would suppress minority votes while addressing a problem, in-person voting fraud, that doesn’t exist. But Republicans defended the law as a common-sense measure to secure elections.

After the veto override on Wednesday, a nonprofit group, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, immediately filed a lawsuit challenging the law.

The controversy has come amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud in a still-unresolved congressional race.

The Michigan state Senate, led by Republicans, passed a bill earlier this month that would transfer campaign finance oversight from the secretary of state to a new bipartisan commission.

But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives declined to take up the bill on Wednesday, likely killing it.

“This proposal would have effectively ended the enforcement of Michigan’s campaign finance law,” Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson said on Twitter.

Lawmakers are still considering other bills, including one allowing lawmakers to sidestep the attorney general and another making it harder for citizens to put voter initiatives on the ballot.

Democrats, too, have been accused of using their power in partisan ways. In New Jersey, the Democratic-controlled legislature proposed amending the state constitution to effectively allow gerrymandering, the process by which legislative districts are drawn to favor one party over another.

Lawmakers abandoned the proposal last week after criticism from Republicans, good government groups and Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.

Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and James Dalgleish

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