DURHAM, N.C. – Attorney General Josh Stein on Thursday said he hopes to give a federal appeals court a chance to review the state's voter photo ID law.

  • Attorney General Josh Stein filed a formal notice of appeal at the end of last week
  • Civil rights groups say the law should not be defended
  • Stein says his job is to defend the state's laws regardless of partisan feelings

Stein last Friday formally filed notice with the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that he will appeal Judge Loretta Biggs' ruling on the law. Biggs issued a preliminary injunction that placed the law on hold just before the start of the new year.

Stein said he will file the appeal itself sometime in the next five to six weeks but will not try to resolve the issue before the March 3 primary. He said he expects to get a decision from the court in time for the November general election.

Voters in November 2018 approved a constitutional amendment to require a photo ID at the polls. State lawmakers were still responsible for enacting the state law that would govern the requirement. They did so over Gov. Roy Cooper's veto the following month. Since then, the photo ID law has been tied up in lawsuits.

The leadership for the legislature's Republican majority has asked the courts to allow Republicans' own lawyers to argue the case in addition to Stein, a Democrat. Biggs rejected that proposal last summer. Prior to Stein's decision, civil rights groups that sued over the law in the first place said the state should not defend what the plaintiffs view as a law designed to suppress black and Latinx voters.

Stein said partisan politics aren't in his purview when it comes to litigation.

“My job isn't to do what I think is personally the best. That's what I did in the legislature,” he said. “My job as Attorney General is to defend the state.”

Stein said no court decision will affect the rules for any potential primary runoffs, which would happen in May or June. Since those are connected to the primary, it would not be possible for any rule changes to take effect in March or May.