Cooper vetoes Republican effort to delay primary election
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Republicans that called for a three-week primary election delay--a move that could benefit Democrats by giving the GOP less time to redraw maps ahead of the 2022 electionPosted — Updated
"This bill is an additional attempt by Republican legislators to control the election timeline and undermine the voting process,” Cooper wrote in a veto message Friday afternoon. “The constitutionality of congressional and legislative districts is now in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the Court should have the opportunity to decide how much time is needed to ensure that our elections are constitutional."
The proposal was approved along party lines in both chambers of the state legislature last week. Republicans lack the support of Democrats that would be required to override Cooper’s decision.
In a statement, GOP House Speaker Tim Moore called the effort to delay the election "a reasonable measure" designed to "ensure a thorough and constitutional process." He accused the Democratic governor of making a decision to benefit his own political party.
"(Cooper) wants to sow chaos and confusion in the hopes that the Supreme Court will usurp the constitutional duty of the General Assembly to the benefit of his Democrat allies," Moore wrote.
The high court will hear the case Wednesday. State elections officials have said finalized maps must be in place by Feb. 18 to maintain the current May 17 primary schedule.
If the North Carolina Supreme Court rules against Republicans after Feb. 18 or shortly ahead of that date, Republicans fear they could effectively lose control over the process. State law requires lawmakers to have at least two weeks to redraw maps.
The court, which has a 4-3 Democratic majority, could also decide on its own to again push back the primaries. Last month, the court delayed the election by 10 weeks, from March 8 to May 17, so that a complaint brought by voting rights groups could be heard ahead of the 2022 election.
If the Supreme Court votes in favor of Republican mapmakers or issues an evenly split ruling, the voting maps the GOP passed last fall would remain in place.
Democratic lawmakers opposing the GOP effort to delay the primary argue the high court’s decision should come before any further election delays are considered. They’ve also expressed concern with the June 7 date Republicans proposed since school is still in session in many places that would also operate as voting locations, creating possible logistical challenges.
Cooper’s veto likely improves Democrats’ chances of seeing an independent expert appointed to handle a potential redraw process because Republicans may not be able to meet a narrow Feb. 18 deadline if the Supreme Court strikes down the new voting maps, takes a while to issue its ruling and doesn’t delay the primaries. Under the GOP proposal the governor rejected, Republicans would have faced less pressure to quickly pass updated maps.
The voting maps that Republicans approved in November did not require the signature of the state’s Democratic governor.
Meanwhile, the new legislative maps bolster Republicans’ prospects of regaining a veto-proof majority in the state House and Senate.
“The delays are going to shift your strategies and your tactics,” said Doug Heye, a longtime GOP advisor and former Republican National Committee communications director. “Fundraising is where that’s really key because you’re going to need more money raised for a longer fight.”
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