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Ruling: State, county election boards will not change

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(The Center Square) – Appointment power to the state Board of Elections remains with North Carolina’s governor.

A proposed change through legislative action has been stopped by Superior Court Judges Edwin Wilson, Lori Hamilton and Andrew Womble. Lawmakers sought to change the state and county boards total membership and who appoints them; they’ll remain five members each, with the governor’s stamp of approval and the governor’s political party being the chairman of each.

The trio was unanimous with an injunction at the end of November to prevent Dec. 1 implementation ahead of the Jan. 1 new term, and again Friday. The ruling was posted Monday.

No Partisan Advantage in Elections originated in the Senate, sponsored by Republican Sens. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County, Warren Daniel of Burke County, Paul Newton of Cabarrus County, Lisa Barnes of Nash County, and Kevin Corbin of Macon County.

The changes would have increased the five-member state board to eight. Appointments would be made by each of the General Assembly majority and minority leaders for the Democratic and Republican parties. The county boards would have reduced from five to four each, with General Assembly majority and minority leaders for the two major parties putting final stamp on the representatives.

In theory, the state board would be a 4-4 split and county boards 2-2, though appointments could have been from the state’s largest bloc – unaffiliated – or its smaller parties. North Carolinians are also registered as Green, Libertarian and No Labels.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat and in the last year of his second consecutive term, can’t run for reelection. He and his legal team said an eight-member state board “would gridlock North Carolina elections and violate the separation of powers.” A previous attempt to similarly change election boards in 2018 was denied by the state Supreme Court, and a constitutional amendment that fall was defeated by voters 61.6%-38.4%.

The legislation didn’t have any Democrats for it, any Republicans against it, and Cooper stamped his 92nd veto on it. The bill was one of 19 Cooper vetoes overturned by lawmakers this session.

The case is known as Cooper v. Berger for short, though defendants named also include Moore and the state of North Carolina. Berger and Moore are named in their roles representing the respective chambers.

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