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Cooper agrees to appoint Board of Elections

Posted March 14, 2018 2:54 p.m. EDT
Updated March 16, 2018 2:22 p.m. EDT

SBE Chairman Grant Whitney listens to a witness during a marathon meeting on Sept. 8, 2016.

— Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he'll make appointments to a long-delayed new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement this week while simultaneously continuing to fight the Republican-mandated changes to the board in court.

The appointments would allow the organization, which has staff but no appointed board, to clear a backlog of work ahead of this year's elections. Among other things, the board appoints county boards of elections. Those local boards oversee election logistics, including approving early voting sites and certifying election equipment.

Twenty-five of North Carolina's 100 counties, including Wake and Cumberland counties, do not have functioning boards because they have too few members.

Cooper's announcement was made as part of a press release titled "Governor's Office Comment on GOP's Continued Effort to Rig Elections."

Cooper and his fellow Democrats have argued that the Republican changes made after he beat Gov. Pat McCrory in the 2016 gubernatorial race were an effort to wrest power away from his office and to limit voting rights. Republicans chastise Cooper for saying a bipartisan board could be a negative for the state. A spokesman for Speaker of the House Tim Moore said Wednesday that it's "well past time" for the governor to make his appointments.

The elections board has traditionally had five members, with the majority belonging to the governor's party. The new board would have nine members, four from each party and one from neither party, a set-up the Republican majority tacked into a broader House Bill 90 during the last legislative session after a long-running lawsuit from the governor voided the legislature's previous board plans.

"We believe strongly that this third attempt by the legislature in HB90 to rig the Board of Elections and limit people's right to vote is unconstitutional and we will continue pursuing our case," Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in Wednesday's press release. "However, the case is likely to take months, and it is important to have a board in place for the time being to administer the upcoming elections."

A spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Wednesday that Democrats shouldn't have "complete, unfettered control of the enforcement of our state's ethics and elections laws."

"The governor does not have a constitutional right to the status quo and, despite his continued lawsuits, a court cannot resurrect a law that was taken off the books just because he prefers it," spokeswoman Shelly Carver said in an email.

Cooper will pick four appointees each from names submitted by the state Republican and Democratic parties, and those appointees will provide the names of two people unaffiliated with either party for the governor to name as the ninth member.

Republican Party nominees:

  • Francis Xavier Deluca, former director of the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank
  • Stacy Clyde Eggers IV, a former Watauga County elections board member
  • John Randolph Hemphill, a Raleigh lawyer
  • John Malachi Lewis, a Mount Pleasant lawyer
  • Ken Raymond, a member of the Forsyth County Board of Elections
  • Cherie R. Poucher, the retired elections director for Wake County

Democratic Party nominees:

  • Andy Penry, a Raleigh lawyer
  • Joshua Malcolm, former state elections board member
  • Valerie Johnson, a Durham lawyer
  • Gary Bartlett, former state elections director
  • Keischa Lovelace, a Fayetteville attorney
  • Stella Anderson, a Watauga County elections board member