@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Cooper names 8 to new state elections board

Posted March 16, 2018 2:46 p.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2018 10:17 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Roy Cooper appointed mostly attorneys to the new State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement on Friday, acquiescing to legislative requirements for a bipartisan board even as his administration fights that Republican-backed change in North Carolina law in court.

That lawsuit is in its third iteration, and the fight goes back to before Cooper even took office, when the Republican majority voted to strip him of the ability to name Democrats to a majority of the board. With elections approaching, a full board was needed, in part because it names county boards that deal with the logistics of elections, Cooper's office said this week.

The two main parties forwarded six names each to the governor, and he picked four from each party. Francis Deluca, a former director of the conservative Civitas Institute, didn't make the cut for Republicans, and neither did Cherie Poucher, the retired elections director for Wake County.

The governor named the following Republicans to the board:

  • Stacy "Four" Eggers IV, an attorney in Boone and a former member of the Watauga County Board of Elections
  • John Randolph Hemphill, an attorney in Raleigh
  • John Malachi Lewis of Mount Pleasant, deputy counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party
  • Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem, the owner of Triad Notary Service and the chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections

Cooper named the following Democrats:

  • Andy Penry, a Raleigh attorney with a focus on construction litigation, including accident and death cases
  • Joshua Dale Malcolm, a former member of the state elections board who serves as general counsel to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke Board of Trustees and a justice on the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina's Supreme Court
  • Valerie Johnson, an attorney in Durham with a focus on workers compensation
  • Stella Anderson, a professor in the Department of Management for the College of Business at Appalachian State University and a member of the Watauga County Board of Elections.

The two Democrats nominated but not appointed were Gary Bartlett, a former state elections director, and Keischa Lovelace, an attorney in Fayetteville.

The new board members will pick two nominees not from the Republican or Democratic parties to suggest to the governor, who will pick one of them, bringing the board to a total of nine members.

Meanwhile, the third iteration of Cooper's lawsuit fighting GOP changes to the board is pending. Cooper and other Democrats want to maintain control of election boards, they have said, to ensure early voting times and sites, as well as other voting issues, are handled fairly. Republican leaders have said that, by giving Cooper more ability to fire appointees in their latest tweaks to the appointment law and by ending concerns over potential deadlocks by going to nine members, they have satisfied state Supreme Court requirements laid out in previous versions of this suit.

Cooper's legal team argued in its new filing this week that Republicans were "simply tinkering around the edges, and they have failed, yet again, to clear the constitutional bar set by our Supreme Court.

"House Bill 90 leaves the very same 4-4 board in place to select the potential ninth board member," Cooper's attorneys argue in the brief. "This means that the governor will be unable to ensure that a majority of the New State Board is made up of members who share the governor's views and priorities."

GOP leaders have called on Cooper to drop his lawsuit. On Friday, state Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse put out a statement congratulating Cooper for "appointing eight respected and qualified nominees" to the new board.