NCGOP warns Cooper it will sue to stop Elections board appointments if necessary

(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
Updated: Dec. 31, 2018 at 12:38 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina Republican Party said Sunday that it would sue, if necessary, to stop Governor Roy Cooper from appointing Republican members to a temporary Board of Elections, which the party calls “unlawful.”

The previous elections board was dissolved pursuant to a court order from a three-judge panel presiding over a lawsuit from Cooper challenging legislation that dictated the makeup of that board.

The court order requiring the previous board to dissolve came despite a request from the then-NCSBE Chairman to the panel to allow the current board to remain in existence as it investigates allegations of election fraud in the 9th Congressional District that kept the board from certifying the results of that race.

A hearing in the matter had been scheduled by the board for January 11, 2019. Originally, the hearing was supposed to take place by December 21, 2018.

On Friday, Cooper announced his intention to appoint a temporary Board of Elections for the month of January until a new permanent board could be appointed under new legislation that officially became law Thursday morning.

Related: Cooper announces plan to appoint temporary board until end of January; GOP opposes

Cooper’s office has said he would appoint Republicans to the temporary board from the four who sat on the NCSBE that was dissolved by the court.

The warning from Republicans came in a new letter sent late Sunday afternoon from NCGOP attorney John Lewis—who served on the most recent iteration of the North Carolina State Board of Elections until its dissolution pursuant to a court order at noon this past Friday—to Will McKinney, who serves as Cooper’s general counsel.

On Friday, McKinney sent a letter to state Republican Chairman Robin Hayes reiterating Cooper’s plan to appoint a temporary elections board until a new board takes effect on January 31, 2019 under a new bill passed earlier this month by the North Carolina General Assembly.

“It is unfortunate that your refusal to follow the law could obstruct an ongoing investigation when a duly appointed and constitutional elections board can hear evidence about disturbing allegations of election fraud, oversee an ongoing investigation, and make an informed decision,” McKinney wrote.

McKinney’s Friday letter came after the party said it would not submit a list of names of potential Republican members for the temporary for Cooper’s consideration.

Under a 2015 law dictating how the NCSBE is constituted—the law under which Cooper has said he would appoint the temporary board—the governor would appoint two Republican members from a list of five names submitted by the party.

In his letter Sunday, Lewis fought back against the notion that Cooper had the authority to appoint a temporary board without Republicans submitting a list of names for appointment to the board.

“The North Carolina Republican Party will not be ‘bullied’ into nominating several of its members to an ‘interim’ State Board of Elections which is not authorized by law,” Lewis wrote.

Lewis argued in his letter that because the General Assembly overrode Cooper’s veto of a bill outlining how a new elections board would be constituted before the previous board was dissolved at noon, the governor lacked the authority to appoint a temporary board under the 2015 law.

Moreover, Lewis argued that even if Cooper sought to appoint a temporary board under a different authority, he would still have to appoint Republican members from a list submitted by the Republican Party.

Related: New court ruling throws wrinkle into NC-09 investigation; new board must be appointed

The letter from Lewis made clear the party still did not intend to submit a list of names for appointments to a temporary board.

“The reluctance of Chairman Hayes to participate in the creation of an unlawful ‘interim’ State Board of Elections results from a desire to ensure that any future investigation surrounding the Ninth Congressional District election is open, fair and transparent, and not tainted by actions taken by an illegal board,” Lewis’ letter said. “This unlawful suggestion by the Governor only serves to further erode public confidence in our election system.”

An email to the Governor’s Office late Sunday afternoon seeking comment in response to the new letter from the NCGOP did not immediately garner a response.

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