The same three-judge panel that shot down the legislature’s first attempt at a bipartisan board governing elections and ethics enforcement late last week blocked the updated plan meant to address that panel’s concerns.
The panel of the Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order blocking SB68 from going into effect after the House and Senate overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on the bill last week.
The bill created a bipartisan board handling elections and ethics issue in the state, drawing together the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into one body on which no party would have any political advantage.
The three-judge panel shot down the original law, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory before leaving office, based on some of the appointment powers for the new board resting with the legislature, but the new bill gave those powers back to the governor. That was apparently not enough.
“The two out of three judges’ decision to override the legislature’s constitutional authority to create a bipartisan elections and ethics enforcement board – even after we modified the board exactly as they required – is little different than the legislating from the bench they specifically promised they would not do,” Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said. “They have taken the first, disturbing step toward giving Roy Cooper total control of the board responsible for regulating his own ethics and campaign finance conduct, and we will continue to defend the law evenly dividing elections and ethics enforcement between both political parties.”
Under the bill, the governor would name all of the appointments to the newly formed board. They would be chosen from a list of nominees submitted by the heads of the two political parties with the highest number of registered voters in the state.
Cooper has said the bill is unconstitutional and will make it harder for people to vote in the state, pointing to potential disagreements between Republicans and Democrats on local and state elections decisions.
In a statement released with his veto 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.”
NCGOP response to court blocking SB68
NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes responded to the court decision to stop SB68 from going into law after the legislature overrode Cooper’s veto last week.
“The people of North Carolina are in favor of an open, honest, transparent and bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement law,” he said. “If the courts wish to remain free of politics, they should avoid clearly partisan rulings that have no basis in constitutional law. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution or the North Carolina Constitution gives Roy Cooper the right to rule over all ethics and elections issues, including his own.”