School board member files lawsuit after being barred from seeking re-election

SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - The Cleveland County School Board member who was left unable to run for re-election to her seat by a bill passed in the final hours of this year's legislative session has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the law.

Kathy Falls was elected to the school board as an unaffiliated candidate, meaning she is not registered as a Republican or Democrat.

Late last month, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a bill in the final hours of this year's session that required unaffiliated candidates to collect signatures from four percent of registered voters in their county by a certain date in order to be eligible to run for office.

The bill was passed on June 29, 2017 and took effect immediately. Under the terms of the legislation, Falls would had to have submitted her petition to run for re-election on June 30, 2017, the very next day.

"I was shocked," Falls said in an interview with WBTV following the bill's passage. " I could not believe that they did that and knowing that we would file starting the next week."

Republican House Speaker Time Moore, who represents Cleveland County in the legislature, said the bill was the result of an oversight on the part of lawmakers, who, he said, did not intend to prohibit Falls from running for re-election.

"It was just an oversight and folks weren't thinking through that," Moore said.

Moore said he thought the situation could be resolved by the North Carolina Board of Elections taking a different interpretation of the law. But a spokesman for the Board of Elections said the statutory requirements in the legislation hastily passed in late June were clear.

Falls filed a lawsuit challenging the law on Tuesday.

The lawsuit asks a judge to issue an injunction against the portion of the law that would require Falls to collect signatures or change her party to be on the ballot in 2017.

It is not clear when a judge will hold a hearing to consider the new suit.

Moore said he believes the legislature will amend the law to correct what he called an inadvertent error when lawmakers return for a special legislative session in August.

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