The North Carolina Senate and House have successfully voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 68, making it the second veto of Cooper’s to be overturned this session.
The Senate took its override vote on Monday night and the House followed suit Tuesday morning.
The Senate and House came down along party lines, with 33 Republicans voting to override the bill and 15 Democrats opposing in the Senate; and 75 House Republicans voting for the override challenged by 44 Democrats.
The bill, now law, will pull together the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into a new board split evenly between the two largest political parties in the state, currently Republicans and Democrats.
The bill was passed to address the concerns of a three-judge panel that shot down an earlier piece of legislation passed last year, and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, that pulled the two bodies together but gave some appointment power to the legislature.
Under the new law the governor would name all of the appointments to the newly formed board, chosen from a list of nominees from the heads of the two political parties with the highest number of registered voters in the state.
A statement from Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, said, “It is ironic that Gov. Cooper lectured the legislature about pursuing ‘partisan power grabs’ when he vetoed a bill creating a bipartisan board to ensure our ethics and elections laws are enforced fairly – and for no other reason than to strengthen his own political advantage. I am confident this change – which actually answers the court’s call to let the governor make all appointments to that board – is a step in the right direction for North Carolina.”
Cooper called the latest plan an unconstitutional “attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote.”
In a statement he said, “This is the same unconstitutional legislation in another package, and it’s an attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote. Changing the State Board of Elections to a 4-4 partisan split and local county board of elections to a 2-2 partisan split will result in deadlocked votes. It’s a scheme to ensure that Republicans control state and county boards of elections in Presidential election years when the most races are on the ballot.
“The North Carolina Republican Party has a track record of trying to influence Board of Elections members to make it harder for people to vote and have fair elections. Under this bill, that same party controls the pool of appointments of half the state and county elections boards. I urge legislators to set the right priorities for North Carolina and stop electoral manipulation, which, like gerrymandering, is what’s wrong with politics.”
Following Cooper’s vetoes on Friday, Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) issued a joint statement responding the governor’s action.
“North Carolinians deserve a bipartisan ethics and elections board with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans to govern without partisan motivations, but Roy Cooper wants to rig the system for his own benefit, just like when he packed the Court of Appeals with Democrats while serving in the legislature. We have complied with the court’s order and restored the governor’s ability to make all appointments to that board, yet he is still fighting measures to increase bipartisan cooperation and undo his court packing scheme for no other reason than to preserve his own partisan advantage.”
Cooper will likely challenge this new law, as he challenged its predecessor.