Governor's Office orders NC elections board to refrain from 'substantive action' after court ruling

Published: Jan. 30, 2018 at 9:28 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2018 at 9:06 AM EST
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections has been ordered by the top attorney for Governor Roy Cooper to refrain from taking action related to its role enforcing election and ethics laws.

Cooper's general counsel, Will McKinney, sent a letter to Josh Lawson, general counsel for the elections board, on Monday issuing the directive.

The letter comes in the wake of a decision issued Friday by the North Carolina Supreme Court that overturned an effort by Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly to require the state's elections board be made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

Prior to the Republican's recent efforts, the board had been made up of a majority of members from the party of the sitting governor.

Document: Click here to read the letter sent from the Governor's Office

The legislation passed by Republicans re-constituting the board of elections also merged the agency with the North Carolina Ethics Commission, which had previously been a standalone agency.

The ruling issued by the North Carolina Supreme Court found the sitting governor must have the ability to control the board of elections.

On Monday, McKinney sent a letter to Lawson ordering the board to effectively take no major action until the ruling from the NC Supreme Court becomes final.

"Until a final judgement is entered by the trial court, the staff of the State Board must halt all activity relating to, or in support of, the merger of the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission," McKinney's letter said.

"Moreover, the staff should refrain from taking any substantive action with respect to elections or ethics law policy decisions," McKinney continued. "The Supreme Court has unambiguously held that the Governor must be able to 'affirmatively implement' his own 'policy decisions' in this area."

A spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections declined to comment.

The Governor's Office could not immediately be reached for comment on this story.

David Lewis (R-Harnett), chairman of the House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law, criticized Cooper on Tuesday night following word of the letter sent to the board of elections.

"The expediency in which Cooper is demanding power should give pause to North Carolinians and non-partisan observers as to the true intentions of his partisan motives," Lewis said in a statement to WBTV. "Perhaps he should slow down until further guidance from the court before he tries to usurp more power."

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