John Lewis, a Republican recently named to the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, says the eight-member board — set to hold its first meeting at 8 a.m. Wednesday — should have more time before recommending its ninth member. And he’d like to give the public time to participate in that decision.
House Bill 90, the law (among other things) finalizing the structure of the board, says the four Republicans and four Democrats must forward two nominees to the governor. The candidates for the last spot can’t be registered as Democrats or Republicans. The governor will pick one of the two to serve as the ninth member.
Here’s where Lewis, a Cabarrus County attorney, stepped in. In a letter to Kim Strach, the board’s executive director, Lewis notes the law doesn’t specify how the board will nominate candidates for that ninth board slot. Lewis wants to open the process.
Along with Republican members Stacy Eggers and Ken Raymond, Lewis asked “the staff of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement [to] create, distribute, and advertise a member application so that citizens of this State, interested in being nominated as the ninth board member, can make themselves known to the existing members.”
He said it’s possible board members might not know any nominees suggested at Wednesday’s meeting, so allowing extra time could let the board members vet candidates and, perhaps, bring out qualified people who might not have considered serving because they didn’t know how to make their interest known.
If other board members go along with Lewis’ request, the board would recess until March 29 and consider nominees that day. If the members agreed on two candidates, Gov. Roy Cooper would choose one.
Echoing sentiments expressed in the letter, Lewis told Carolina Journal the never-ending lawsuits filed over the composition, membership, and duties of the board — which began in December 2016, soon after the General Assembly merged the State Board of Elections and state Ethics Commission — have undermined North Carolinians’ trust in the elections process.
Opening the process to the public could help restore some confidence in election oversight, he added.
The law doesn’t require the ninth member to be an unaffiliated voter, so Lewis said a registered Libertarian or a voter aligned with the Green Party (which doesn’t have ballot access in North Carolina) or some other minor party could toss his or her hat in the ring.
Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the board, said in an email, “The State Board staff is committed to implementing any nominations process as directed by the eight board members.”