Our View: Elections board revamp unwarranted
Rocky Mount Telegram
Sunday, April 30, 2017
A panel of state trial court judges sided with Gov. Roy Cooper again in his fight with Republican lawmakers over their continuing efforts to limit his power over the N.C. State Board of Elections.
The judges put a temporary hold on a law set to take effect Monday that would combine the state’s ethics and elections boards and divide the members of the reconfigured board equally between Republicans and Democrats. The judges voted 2-1 to block the law until a hearing is held May 10, finding that Cooper is likely to succeed in his challenge of the measure.
A similar law passed in December just before Cooper was to assume office had previously been declared unconstitutional, so lawmakers passed a revamped version of the measure. Lawmakers this week overrode Cooper's veto of the new law and Cooper took the matter back to court.
The previous and current versions of the elections board remake take away Cooper's authority to pick the majority of the five-member statewide elections board, which selects the members of the three-member county elections boards.
For the better part of 100 years, the majority on the state and local boards went to the party that controlled the governor’s mansion. Republican lawmakers want to divide the elections boards equally between Democrats and Republicans, with Cooper picking elections board members from lists of candidates compiled by the two major parties. A Republican would chair the state board during even-numbered years, when presidential and midterm congressional and state-legislative elections are held, and a Democrat would chair the board in odd-numbered years, when most municipal and other local elections are held.
GOP supporters of the law insist that a bipartisan make-up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans is the best way to handle partisan decisions over state and county election matters. But placing a Republican in charge of the board during even-numbered election years, when the most people vote in high-profile federal and state elections, certainly does not smack of bipartisanship.
And the current system has worked well for the state for a long time.