House Republicans are rushing a bill through the legislature that would aim to salvage last year’s attempt to take away control of elections boards from the political party of the governor. A law passed in a 2016 post-election special session and signed by former Gov. Pat McCrory would have consolidated the state elections and ethics boards and evenly divided membership of the new board between Republicans and Democrats. But a three-judge panel struck down that law last month as an unconstitutional encroachment on executive authority. The 2016 law would have altered a longstanding practice giving a governor the power to appoint three members from his party to preside over elections as well as two members from the other party. Instead, the governor would have appointed four members and legislative leaders would have appointed the other four. In December, incoming Gov. Roy Cooper sued over those provisions, which were aimed at shifting some of the governor’s authority to the state legislature.
The panel of judges, in a unanimous ruling, said the elections board and ethics commission fell in the realm of the executive branch.
“The governor’s inability to appoint a controlling number of members of the new state board means that the legislature retains control over that board and can prevent the governor from taking action,” the judges ruled. “Because they reserve too much control in the legislature — and thus block the governor from ensuring faithful execution of the laws — the court concludes that the board of elections amendments are unconstitutional.”