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Our View: Elections board revamp unwarranted

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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.

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