News: Quick Takes

Legislative leaders ask U.S. Supreme Court to block controversial election settlement

While awaiting U.S. Supreme Court action on two other N.C. election cases, state legislative leaders now have asked the nation’s highest court to block a controversial state court election settlement.

That Oct. 2 settlement led to the two federal lawsuits already sitting in front of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

“The secretive settlement deal eliminated the witness requirement for absentee ballots and extended the deadline by which absentee ballots must be received to nine days after Election Day,” according to a news release from Senate leader Phil Berger’s office. Berger is a Republican representing Rockingham County.

“The deal was worked out in secret between the Democratic Party-controlled N.C. State Board of Elections, Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein, and Democratic Party super-lawyer Marc Elias,” the news release added.

“It’s clear that the allied Democrats struck the deal in secret because Sen. Berger and [House] Speaker [Tim] Moore, who are co-defendants in the case, did not know about the existence of negotiations, much less a settlement, until the deal until was publicly announced.”

“Attorney General Stein is on the ballot this year,” the news release continued. “He negotiated changes to the rules of his own election after ballots had already been cast. He has refused to turn over public records surrounding the negotiations with Marc Elias.”

Elias is national Democrats’ point man for multiple election-related lawsuits.

Berger and Moore’s latest court filing asks the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state trial court settlement pending appeal of the case.

“Indeed, the activity at issue here is remarkable: it involves unelected state bureaucrats teaming up with state-court plaintiffs to secure a state-court consent judgment substantially changing the rules the legislature set specifically for this election weeks after voting started,” according to the legislative leaders’ court filing. “To add to the audacity of this action, Respondents are likely to tell this Court that it is simply too late to correct their unlawful behavior given the closeness of election day. This ‘reminds us of the legal definition of chutzpah: a young man, convicted of murdering his parents, who argues for mercy on the ground that he is an orphan.’

“It also would provide a roadmap for other state election officials seeking to change election rules to their own liking — simply wait until close to (or after) voting starts to act and then insist it is too late for this Court to do anything about it,” the brief continued. “This type of activity must be rejected before it is given a chance to take root.”

All parties have been waiting since Sunday for the Supreme Court to respond to filings in the Moore v. Circosta and Wise v. Circosta cases. Since Roberts’ weekend deadline for briefs in those cases, the Supreme Court welcomed Amy Coney Barrett as its ninth justice.

A ruling on those two cases could arrive at any time. Berger’s news release suggests the high court is likely to address its latest request at the same time as it rules in the other cases.