RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday afternoon that he would not name a temporary Board of Elections to serve for the month of January, citing a refusal by Republicans to cooperate with the nominating process.
Cooper’s office announced plans to appoint such a board after a three-judge panel ordered the previous North Carolina State Board of Elections to dissolve last week.
The ruling came late on December 27, 2018, hours after the North Carolina General Assembly took the final votes needed to implement a bill outlining how a new elections board would be formed and adjourned for the year.
The new elections bill made official last week says a new board doesn’t take effect until January 31, 2019.
In the wake of the ruling, Cooper said he would nominate a board to serve for the month of January under a previous elections bill that allowed him to appoint a five-member Board of Elections. The law required the Governor to make appointments from lists of nominees submitted by each party; three members from the party of the sitting Governor and two members from the other party.
Cooper said he would make appointments to the temporary board from the Republican and Democrat members who made up the previous board that was dissolved in December but Republicans said that would be illegal.
In a letter Sunday, Republicans doubled down on their refusal to submit a list of nominees for Cooper’s decision.
As a result, Cooper’s office announced Wednesday, he would not appoint a board.
The move comes as staff at the NCSBE continues to investigate allegations of election fraud in Bladen and Robeson Counties that kept the previous board from certifying the race for the 9th Congressional District.
A hearing was scheduled for January 11, where board staff was expected to outline the findings of the investigation. The release from Cooper on Wednesday said that hearing would no longer take place as scheduled.
“Quickly rooting out real election fraud should be a bipartisan effort. Today in North Carolina, we have a Board of Elections with five empty chairs because Republicans are blocking the way,” Gov. Cooper said.
Because the race hasn’t been certified and the investigation has already identified potential areas of fraud, Democrats in the US House announced last week they would not seat Republican Mark Harris when the new Congress convenes on Thursday.
Instead, WBTV has learned, Harris will spend at least part of Thursday talking with investigators probing the fraud allegations.
Chairman Robin Hayes for the North Carolina Republican Party issued a statement in response to Cooper’s announcement Wednesday afternoon.
“The North Carolina Republican Party takes their obligations under the law and State Constitution seriously.Our unwillingness 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. This unlawful suggestion by the Governor only serves to further erode public confidence in our election system. Governor Cooper earns no gold stars for being embarrassed into following the letter of the law,” said Chairman Hayes.