Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Thursday that restructures the North Carolina State Board of Elections by splitting the appointments between the majority and minority legislative leaders.
“The legislative takeover of state and local elections boards could doom our state’s elections to gridlock and severely limit early voting,” said Cooper in a press release. “It also creates a grave risk that Republican legislators or courts would be empowered to change the results of an election if they don’t like the winner. That’s a serious threat to our democracy, particularly after the nation just saw a presidential candidate try to strongarm state officials into reversing his losing election result.”
S.B. 749, No Partisan Advantage in Elections, passed both chambers on Sept. 22 with no Democrats voting in favor of it.
The NCSBE would be composed of four majority and four minority party appointments. All would come from the legislature, with the following allocation:
- Two members appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate.
- Two members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives.
- Two members appointed by the minority leader of the Senate.
- Two members appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives.
As the law stands today, all appointments are made by the governor. Three out of five members of the NCSBE are allowed to be from the same political party, allowing partisan decisions to be made.
Local election boards would be appointed in a similar fashion, but with only one appointment per legislative leader instead of two. Local boards would only consist of four members as opposed to eight.
Unaffiliated voters will also be able to serve on the board, which is a change from current law.
Currently, NCSBE “appoints four members – two Democrats and two Republicans – to each county board of elections,” according to the NCSBE website. “The state chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties recommend three registered voters to the State Board.”
The NCSBE chooses two of the three recommendations by party chairs, and the governor chooses the fifth and final appointee, which will be the deciding vote on partisan issues.
“North Carolinians deserve to have the knowledge and confidence that their state and local boards of elections are operating in the best interest of the voters, not a particular political party,” said Warren Daniel, R-Burke, in a press release issued in response to the veto. “Single-party control has led to distrust and skepticism among voters. Voters should be asking themselves why Gov. Cooper is so desperate to maintain his partisan grip on the State Board of Elections.”
Daniel said he looked forward to overriding Cooper’s veto and “establishing truly bipartisan boards of elections in North Carolina.”
Cooper chided lawmakers in August for promoting election reform.
“The North Carolina local and state elections boards conducted secure and accurate elections that resulted in a Republican supermajority and a Trump win in NC,” Cooper said in a press release criticizing SB 749 and two other Republican-driven elections bills in August. “But now, using the Big Lie of election fraud, this same legislature wants to block voters they think won’t vote Republican, legitimize conspiracy theorists to intimidate election workers, and anoint themselves to decide contested elections. That’s the real fraud.”
On Aug. 24, he vetoed S.B. 747, Election Law Changes, which would have made election day the deadline for absentee ballots, banned private groups from covering some elections’ administrative costs, and clarified the rights and duties of election observers.
Both vetoes will most likely see an override from the General Assembly’s Republican supermajority.