Legislature Gives Governor Partisan Control of N.C. Elections Board as Required by Court Decision  

Allows a new primary in 9th Congressional District if state board orders new election

Reforms absentee ballot rules in response to alleged voter fraud in Bladen County

Voter ID will not be required in any new election ordered from a 2018 contest

Raleigh, N.C. – The North Carolina General Assembly approved legislation Wednesday that would grant Governor Roy Cooper partisan control of the State Board of Elections following a series of lawsuits by the executive branch opposing a Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement.

Over the past two years, Governor Cooper has waged a legal battle against a bipartisan board of elections and ethics enforcement with a series of lawsuits arguing that he alone should have control of the board overseeing campaign finance and elections law in North Carolina.

In October, the day before early voting started, a three judge panel agreed with Gov. Cooper and struck down the bipartisan board as unconstitutional.

Under House Bill 1029, the State Board of Elections would consist of five members, all appointed by the Governor, with not more than three members coming from the same party.  The Governor would also have authority to appoint chairs of all 100 county board of elections.

The State Ethics Commission will consist of eight members, with four members appointed by the governor, and four members appointed by the General Assembly; two by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and two by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.  No more than two of the Governor’s appointees could be from the same party, and General Assembly leaders would not be permitted to appoint more than one person from the same party.

“This bill makes every effort to comply with the court’s ruling and gives Governor Cooper the partisan control over the State Board of Elections that he has sued for,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett). 

House Bill 1029 would also allow a new primary in the 9th Congressional District if a new election is ordered by state officials and clarifies that voter ID will not be required in the new election if ordered. The bill also strengthens mail-in ballot security by requiring the two witnesses who attest that the person who filled out an absentee ballot is who they say they are.

Under current law, witnesses need only attest that they saw the person sign the ballot. The bill also requires county boards of elections to transmit information on absentee ballot witnesses to the State Board of Elections.

“If we did not take action, the state board of elections would have ceased to exist, per the court’s rulingWe must get to the bottom of what happened with the absentee ballots in Bladen County in 2018 and in previous elections,” Lewis said.   

“This bill gives the current board the opportunity to complete their investigation and eliminate any question whether they have the authority to do so.”

The bill also ensures that the investigation being conducted by the current board of elections into Bladen County absentee ballot irregularities during this year’s Ninth Congressional District race is not hindered.  Lawmakers requested an extension of the court’s previous stay of its decision and were granted one until December 28th, allowing the current board to complete its work investigating the 9th Congressional District.

H.B. 1029 bill would delay the split of the board into two separate entities until January 31st to provide additional time for the current board to complete their investigation should another stay need to be requested. This provision will eliminate any legal question as to whether the current board has the authority to complete their investigation into the alleged election fraud.

At the end of that investigation, if the board determines that the absentee ballot irregularities are enough to warrant a new election, this bill would require that a primary be held for that election which is consistent with law governing all other elections in the state including special elections.

“All indications are the same activities that are alleged to have occurred concerning absentee ballots in the general election also occurred in the primary,” Said Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg). “Voters deserve a fair election, free of any tampering and the only way to fully guarantee that is to completely start over with the primary if there must be a new election.”

Media reports indicate that the absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County brought to light recently have been going on since at least 2010, and this bill also takes the first steps towards better securing absentee ballots.

News continues to break out of Bladen County, including that early vote counts were leaked in the 2018 elections and that the “fraud scandal casts shadow over the primary, too.”