New NC elections board named, allowing 9th District investigation to proceed

Posted January 31, 2019 11:57 a.m. EST
Updated January 31, 2019 2:09 p.m. EST

9th Congressional District map

— After more than a month without a State Board of Elections, Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday named five people to the reconstituted board.

Cooper named Democrats Stella Anderson of Boone, Jeff Carmon III of Durham and Bob Cordle of Charlotte and Republicans David C. Black of Concord and Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem to the five-member board.

"North Carolinians deserve fair and honest elections, and I am confident this board will work to protect our electoral process,” Cooper said in a statement.

The board via conference call Thursday afternoon and elected Cordle chairman and Anderson secretary. Another meeting will be held next week, at which time members will set a date for a hearing into the ongoing investigation of alleged absentee ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District race.

A previous nine-member elections board was dissolved by court order in late December after a panel of state judges ruled lawmakers had overstepped their authority in the way they set it up and in making other changes to the state's elections administration system in 2016.

The absence of the board has stalled the 9th District investigation.

Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes in the race, but the previous board refused to certify the results because of suspicious absentee voting results in Bladen and Robeson counties.

Harris has acknowledged hiring Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless to oversee absentee ballot operations in the county. Several people have told reporters that Dowless paid them to pick up mail-in ballots, a felony under North Carolina law due to tampering concerns.

Dowless has, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing, but he hasn't yet sat down with elections board investigators looking at the 9th District.

While waiting on a new elections board, Harris tried to get a court to order state Elections Director Kim Strach to certify the 9th District results and effectively declare him the winner. But the judge refused, saying the new board has the authority to continue the investigation that started in November.

The 9th District is the only seat in Congress that is vacant, and Democrats in charge of the U.S. House have said they wouldn't seat Harris until the fraud allegations are resolved.

In addition to the 9th District investigation, the state must appoint elections boards in each of North Carolina's 100 counties. The board is responsible for naming four people to each board, and Cooper appoints a fifth member to each to serve as chair.

The board also must implement new regulations for voters to show photo identification at the polls, starting this fall, and evaluate and certify new voting equipment so counties can replace aging machines.

Here's some background on the new elections board members:

  • Anderson was the chairwoman of the Watauga County Board of Elections from 2005 to 2013 and is a professor at Appalachian State University.
  • Black is president of H&B Tool & Die Supply and served as chairman of the Cabarrus County Board of Elections.
  • Carmon is an attorney at the CW Law Group, practicing in the areas of personal injury and criminal law.
  • Cordle served on the State Board of Elections until 2013 and practiced law in Charlotte from 1968 to 2018 before retiring from Mayer Brown LLP.
  • Raymond is a freelance writer and works at the Piedmont Triad Airport, and he served as chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections.