Many voters in North Carolina fill in ballots on Election Day, slide them into voting machines, maybe pick up an “I voted” sticker on the way out of the polling place, watch for the results and think it’s all over. But the 2016 elections in North Carolina showed how much can happen after the last ballot is cast. There was a post-election campaign after Democrat Roy Cooper defeated Republican Pat McCrory in a narrow 10,277-vote victory, with voter challenges and recount petitions filed across the state. It wasn’t until a month later that McCrory acknowledged he lost. The monthlong election aftermath from two years ago provides insight into one of the power struggles going on between the Republican-led General Assembly and Cooper. The state elections and ethics board has been in limbo for much of the past year as Cooper has turned to the courts to overturn attempts by lawmakers to have greater sway in who’s appointed to it.
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.
Aurora has had its own Election Commission since 1934. Voters on March 20 will decide whether that will continue. People through the years have called for the abolition of the Aurora Election Commission, calling it an unneeded governmental body, inefficient and out-moded. Others defend the commission as a convenience to Aurora voters, and a hedge against politics and the possibility of playing games with elections. In 1986, voters decidedly rejected an attempt to abolish the commission with about 60 percent of the voters supporting it. In the 1990s, another effort to put the question on the ballot never got that far.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he’ll make appointments to a long-delayed new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement this week while simultaneously continuing to fight the Republican-mandated changes to the board in court. The appointments would allow the organization, which has staff but no appointed board, to clear a backlog of work ahead of this year’s elections. Among other things, the board appoints county boards of elections. Those local boards oversee election logistics, including approving early voting sites and certifying election equipment. Twenty-five of North Carolina’s 100 counties, including Wake and Cumberland counties, do not have functioning boards because they have too few members. Cooper’s announcement was made as part of a press release titled “Governor’s Office Comment on GOP’s Continued Effort to Rig Elections.”
Months after control of Virginia’s House of Delegates was decided by a disputed, mismarked ballot, the State Board of Elections will set new ballot requirements that include clearer instructions for voters. Proposed changes to be adopted March 23 address “a need for improved clarity and additional examples” and “a need for improved usability of ballots for voters based on best practices and research,” a memo to the three-member board said. Virginia would go from more general rules about what printed ballots should look like to two specific approved forms. One of the proposed forms would include voting instructions in the leftmost column on the front of a three-column ballot. The other secondary choice would place voting instructions across the top of a two-column ballot just beneath the header that lists the date and type of election.
Two days before a bill fixing problems with state class sizes was set to become law, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration on Tuesday filed a legal challenge to a provision of the measure dealing with the state elections board. The request for a temporary restraining order is the latest shot in a long-running war between the Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders over the elections board that even predates his inauguration. In a special December 2016 session, Republican lawmakers created an eight-member State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement that would be evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The elections board has traditionally had five members, with the majority belonging to the governor’s party.
With primaries two months away, North Carolina’s election system remains in legal limbo, and a court order issued Monday scrambled the situation even more. Twenty-five of the state’s 100 counties, including Wake and Cumberland counties, have no functioning elections board to settle questions of polling locations and early voting hours. Each of those counties has only two members on its elections board. They were allowed to function by a state Supreme Court order last summer while wrangling over the makeup of the state elections board played out in court. That wrangling dates to a December 2016 law that merged the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into an eight-member panel evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. County boards, under that law, were expanded from three to four members, again evenly divided by party.
Editorials: North Carolina needs fair elections and a balanced legislature | Colin Campbell/News & Observer
Gov. Roy Cooper wants to take politics out of the redistricting process, but he also thinks he should control elections administration in North Carolina. Legislative Republicans, meanwhile, want to take partisanship out of the elections board, but they’re determined to keep it in the process of drawing legislative and congressional districts. None of this is surprising: The old adage, “to the victor go the spoils,” has always applied to partisan politics. Efforts to end gerrymandering have been going on in this state for decades – Republicans filed bills to create an independent redistricting process when they were in the minority. But those bills die a quick death now that the GOP is in power. Democrats like Cooper have vowed to change that if they regain the majority, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
National: Election Officials Convene in D.C. Amid Continued Friction Over Voting Security, Russian Propaganda Concerns | Washington Free Beacon
Top election officials from around the country will be meeting in Washington, D.C., this weekend amid a flurry of news reports and political debates over the last two weeks about election security. Because administering elections is a function of the states and not the federal government, state and federal officials have appeared in tension as hearings on Capitol Hill continue to suggest the federal government wants a greater role in providing security and oversight. With the intense public scrutiny on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections, many of the secretaries of state say they have found themselves in a constant battle of dispelling myths about voting security and rebutting media reports, while walking a delicate balance accepting federal help on issues such as cybersecurity while also preserving the autonomy given to states by the Constitution.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper won a big legal decision over Republican legislative leaders last month when the N.C. Supreme Court sided with him in his lawsuit seeking to nullify a GOP-backed restructuring of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. Since then, GOP legislators decided to pass the third piece of legislation in 15 months that alters the board’s makeup. Cooper railed against those latest changes but announced that he will let them become law anyway. The litigation isn’t over, and candidate filing this year began last week still without any seated elections and ethics board members.