If judges sign off on Republican legislation that curtails the new governor’s control over state and local elections, future balloting could be wracked with confusion, unethical politicians could go unpunished and campaign finance tricks could continue unabated, Democratic lawyers contend. A three-judge panel of state trial judges on Thursday starts hearing arguments about whether it’s constitutional for GOP legislators to end the century-old control governors had of overseeing elections now that a rival, new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, is in office.
The judges are looking at a law passed in April over Cooper’s veto that takes away his authority to pick the majority of the five-member statewide elections board. That state board selects the members of the three-member local elections boards in all 100 counties.
GOP legislators now want to divide the elections boards equally between Democrats and Republicans, with Cooper picking elections board members from lists of candidates compiled by the two major parties. The new, expanded boards would also take over investigating ethics complaints against politicians and violations of lobbying and campaign finance laws.