Local News

Some Question Partisan Politics On State Elections Board

Posted October 25, 2004

— When the Democratic-controlled state Board of Elections recently blocked an ad criticizing Gov. Mike Easley, Republicans cried foul. Some would argue that the root of the problem is the partisan nature of the board.

"The appearance is the Republicans are getting a raw deal and the Democrats are getting every advantage. That's the appearance," said Don Carrington, of the John Locke Foundation.

In North Carolina, each of the two major political parties nominates candidates for the state Board of Elections, but it is the governor who chooses the people. By law, the governor must only reserve two spots for the opposing party.

Currently, the five-member board has two Republicans and three Democrats, including a Democratic chairman who once raised funds for Easley.

"When those decisions are being led by someone who's clearly a partisan fund-raiser, that raises lots of questions," Carrington said.

The legislature took action to address some of those questions four years ago. It banned members from speaking or fund-raising on behalf of a political candidate.

UNC professor Ferrell Guillory believes as long as the governor has the power to appoint, the state Board of Elections will be partisan.

"I don't see how you can totally insulate an election system from all politics," he said.

Guillory points out that those who feel there is bias have the right to make their case in the courts. While state board members are prohibited from fund-raising, they are allowed to donate their own money to political campaigns.

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