North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint members to a combined state elections and ethics board this week, even while he continues to fight in court over the legality of the board’s latest iteration. Cooper’s office announced the decision Wednesday, two days before a new law approved by Republicans last month creating a nine-member panel is supposed to take effect. The Democratic governor has sued GOP legislative leaders three times — the latest lawsuit coming Tuesday — over legislation creating different versions of the joint board. The first lawsuit was filed in December 2016, just before Cooper got sworn in. A state board administering elections and campaign finance laws has been vacant since last June while the constitutionality of the combination board has been litigated. While election board staff performed their duties, policy decisions got delayed and contested municipal election results had to be settled by judges.
Since the latest lawsuit is likely to take months, “it is important to have a board in place for the time being to administer the upcoming elections,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a release.
The lack of a sitting board also meant boards of elections in a quarter of the state’s 100 counties currently don’t have enough members to conduct business, such as approving early-voting sites for the May 8 primary elections. That’s because the state board appoints county board members.