Republicans propose new board of elections bill

Republicans propose new board of elections bill
NC State Board of Elections (Source: Corey Schmidt)

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Senior Republicans in the North Carolina legislature are now backing a bill that would keep the North Carolina State Board of Elections intact for the near future. The bill would extend the life of the current board until January 31, 2019, or as long as a three-judge panel allows it.

The goal is to keep the current board in place for the length of the election fraud investigation in the 9th Congressional District.

“If we do not take action the board will cease to exist tomorrow,” State Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett) said during a press conference Tuesday.

The bill also initially required a new primary in the 9th District if the NCSBE determined a new general election was necessary. The provision was eventually dropped after a lack of support forcing congress to determine if a new primary is needed.

“All indications are that the same activities that are alleged to have occurred in general also occurred in primary,” Lewis said.

Lewis and State Senator Phil Berger (R-Mecklenburg) said they were unsure if Governor Roy Cooper supported the bill but say they’ve been discussing different aspects of the proposed law with his office. Governor Cooper’s office did not respond to WBTV’s request for comment by the time this story was published.

Lawsuits and legislation have kept the future of the State Board of Elections in limbo and recent allegations of election fraud in Bladen and Robeson Counties only made the situation tenser.

A three-judge panel ruled earlier this fall that the current way Republican lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly have organized the board is unconstitutional and required a new organizational structure be in place by early December. That decision was put on hold twice due to the investigations into absentee ballot irregularities in the 9th District race between Mark Harris (R) and Dan McCready (D).

The bill now filed by Republicans would revert much of the board’s structure to what existed during Governor Part McCrory’s tenure.

The rules the new bill would impose include…

  • Separating the Board of  Elections and Ethics Enforcement Commission
  • NCSBE includes five members  all appointed by Governor. Limits number of appointees from single party.
  • Ethics Commission  includes eight members. Four appointed by governor, two by speaker of the  house and two by president pro temp. Limits number of appointees from  single party.
  • Elected officials,  candidates, state employees cannot serve.
  • NCSBE would oversee  campaign finance investigations whole Ethics Commission would oversee  compliance and enforcement.
  • Lobbying activity  regulations would fall back under the Secretary of State.

The bill would also make “modest” changes to the way absentee ballots are handled, according to Berger. Two witnesses signing a ballot would have to attest that the person who filled out the ballot “is who they say they are.” Information on witnesses would also be better documented.

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