Legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly recently overturned Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on new election regulations. Cooper has since sued the Republican heads of the legislative body in response, setting up a battle with results that will likely affect the 2024 presidential elections.
The bill in contention, State Bill 749, removes the governor’s ability to appoint the state Board of Elections, transferring that power to the legislative office. The former system allows for five electoral board members, with three members traditionally coming from the governor’s party.
The new system changes this, allowing legislative leaders from each party in the House and Senate to choose two representatives for an increased total of eight members of the Board.
Legislative leaders and Republican officials have argued that the former system was biased and that the changes will help build trust and consensus representing voters.
“[The election bills are] the correct public policy [and] it’s on solid legal ground,” House Speaker Tim Moore said.
“By establishing truly bipartisan boards of elections and requiring strong majority votes to approve motions, North Carolinians can be assured that no one political party has an undue advantage when election disputes occur,” the North Carolina Republican Party wrote in a press release.
The bill passed the House and Senate easily after its initial proposal in June. However, in late September, Cooper vetoed the bill, raising concerns about the possible inefficacy of the proposed solutions.
"The legislative takeover of state and local elections boards could doom our state’s elections to gridlock and severely limit early voting. It also creates a grave risk that Republican legislators or courts would be empowered to change the results of an election if they don’t like the winner,” Cooper wrote in a statement.
Delays in board decisions could lead to decreases in voting or early voting locations, and decisions on contested elections could fall to the Republican-controlled Supreme Court and General Assembly.
Cooper also mentioned previous legislative failures to gain control of the North Carolina Elections Board, at the ballot and in court. North Carolina rejected a proposed amendment with similar content in 2018.
“[The bill will] undermine fair elections and faith in our democracy by sending disputes to our highly partisan legislature and courts. Both the Courts and the people have rejected this bad idea, and the meaning of our Constitution doesn’t change just because the Supreme Court has new Justices.” Cooper said.
The suit is not the only one being filed. The General Assembly also overturned vetoes on several other election bills, including one that restricts absentee ballot submissions to those received by election day and bans ballot drop boxes, as well as new regulations on address verification, voter registration and early voting.
Cooper’s office also filed another lawsuit over another bill with an overturned veto that gives the General Assembly appointment power for other positions formerly under the Governor’s oversight.
“Over the years, the North Carolina Supreme Court has repeatedly held in bipartisan decisions that the legislature cannot seize executive power like this no matter what political parties control which offices. The efforts of Republican legislators to destroy the checks and balances in our constitution are bad for people and bad for our democracy,” Cooper wrote in a press release.
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