A legal battle between Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican leaders in the General Assembly over the creation of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is bypassing the Court of Appeals. The next stop is the N.C. Supreme Court.
An order signed by Justice Michael Morgan explains the court will hear the case Aug. 28. Cooper’s lawyers have until Aug. 3 to file a brief, and the legislature’s lawyers have until Aug. 18. By Aug. 23, Cooper’s lawyers can file a response.
N.C. Supreme Court issued also ordered the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to remain until a decision is reached about its legality. For the time being, the order maintains the status quo and prohibits members from being appointed to the new board.
“We’re pleased the Supreme Court agrees with Governor Cooper that this legal process needs to be allowed to play out,” Ford Porter, Cooper’s spokesman, said in a press release. “We look forward to making our case on Aug. 28 to stop this backdoor effort to suppress voters.”
This could be the victory Cooper has been waiting for, as the N.C. Supreme Court leans left.
Andy Taylor, a professor of political science at the School of International and Public Affairs at N.C. State University, explained that while the court is technically nonpartisan, the Democrats outnumber Republicans, 4-3, after Morgan defeated Republican Bob Edmunds in November.
“If you are thinking [about the case] purely in partisan terms, then you would suspect that it would be declared unconstitutional like the first one was, but there are some changes,” Taylor said.
The original measure, passed in a special session in December, merged the Elections and Ethics boards and required a six-vote supermajority for any action. It also required the new board to be bipartisan, with the governor appointing four members and General Assembly leadership appointing the remaining four.
That measure was ruled unconstitutional, but Republican lawmakers returned with a revised bill allowing the governor to appoint all eight members of the new board; the Republican and Democratic parties each would nominate four members. The board would still have to be bipartisan, but a six-vote supermajority would be required for some of the actions taken by the board.
“It keeps in the supermajority decision making, so that suggests to me that it is the supermajority decision making that is important rather than technically taking away the ability of the governor to make appointments,” Taylor said. “It will be interesting to see what happens next.”