Wake elections board vacancy filled in rush to comply with court order

Posted August 7
Updated August 8

Wake County Board of Elections Chairman Brian Ratledge (right) and Mark Ezzell (seated, middle) examing provisional ballots during the Wake County canvass as Elections Director Gary Sims and  Deputy Director Nicole Shumaker look on.

— North Carolina's State Board of Elections called an emergency telephone meeting Sunday night to appoint a new member of the Wake County Board of Elections so the three-member county board could respond to a federal court order.

Edwin Woodhouse will replace Brian Ratledge, who resigned last month to take a job as the top lawyer for the North Carolina Department of Administration.

Woodhouse ran unsuccessfully for Raleigh City Council in 2015 and is the cousin of Dallas Woodhouse, the state Republican Party's executive director. There was no discussion over his appointment.

Typically, state boards must call meetings 48 hours in advance. The state elections board notified the public less than 90 minutes before their meeting using emergency rules, saying in its notice that the rush was needed so the Wake County board could take action as ordered by U.S. District Judge James Dever, who is overseeing the case dealing with Wake County's school board and county commissioner districts.

Earlier this summer, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down legislative districts drawn for the two Wake County boards. While the appellate panel expressed the sentiment that the county should not use the unconstitutional districts, it did not give the court a complete roadmap as to what to do. Time is running short for the court and the county to put an election plan in place.

County boards of elections have only three members: two from the governor's party, which is the Republican Party right now, and one from the other major political party, currently the Democratic Party.

Along with Republican Ellis Boyle and Democrat Mark Ezzell, Woodhouse will have to respond to Dever's request that Wake County rank the ease of using various methods of holding an election this fall.

"The court's focus is on having timely and orderly elections while being faithful to the Fourth Circuit's mandate and governing precedent," Dever wrote in his order, which was entered Sunday. "As such, the court requests that the Wake County Board of Elections rank the four options listed above, from most feasible to have orderly elections to least feasible to have orderly elections."

Giving Wake County until 4 p.m. Monday to respond, Dever told county elections officials to rank four options in terms of how quickly and efficiently they could be carried out:

  • using the districts the 4th Circuit declared unconstitutional
  • reverting to the maps drawn in 2011 that lawmakers replaced with the unconstitutional maps
  • using illustrative maps put forward by Rep. Rosa Gill, D-Wake, during the trial
  • using illustrative maps put forward by state legislative leaders in court filings last week

The plaintiffs in the case, led by the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, have objected to the newly drawn maps put forward by lawmakers. For their part, lawmakers have objected to using any plan that doesn't roughly follow the plans they put forward.

Late last week, the Wake County board announced it would meet by phone at 5:30 p.m. Monday. It's unclear if that meeting will stand, or if the newly constituted trio will get together earlier in the day in order to respond to Dever by the court's 4 p.m. deadline.


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