Raleigh, N.C. — The State Board of Elections on Friday removed a member of the Beaufort County Board of Elections for participating in partisan political activities.
Delma Blinson, who was appointed to the Beaufort board this summer, participated in a local tea party meeting in October. During that meeting, he made a motion that passed to endorse Greg Brannon, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
The state board sets major policy for state elections and oversees the operations of local boards. Local boards have the job of actually running elections. This summer, state board leaders warned new members of local boards that they must abstain from political activity in order to preserve their objectivity.
"You were on notice that we were going to aggressively enforce this statute," said Josh Howard, chairman of the state board.
Blinson acknowledged that he had participated in the tea party meeting, but he said he did not think it violated the law, which prohibits "public" displays of political opinion.
"I would say anyone in public office ... has a right to private conversations," he said.
But board members pointed out that the tea party meeting time and location was advertised to the public. The activity at the meeting -- making an endorsement -- was a process in which one's political opinions are made known.
"If 20 people at a political rally isn't public, what is?" Howard asked.
The board voted 5-0 to remove Blinson and asked the local Republican Party to recommend a replacement.