As cleanup continues from the most recent North Carolina elections held without a regulatory board to settle disputes, both local and state officials are wondering if the court case that vacated the board will be settled before the next elections in May. County boards and judges — not the state elections board — are still handling appeals from municipal elections in November. They include a mayor’s race that was decided by three votes and a one-vote race where ineligible voters cast ballots. North Carolina hasn’t had a statewide elections board since June because Gov. Roy Cooper is challenging a law that would change the board’s composition to be divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats. Cooper, a Democrat, has gone to court against the GOP-controlled legislature to keep the system that gives the governor’s party a majority of the board’s members. The litigation is now before the state Supreme Court.
So the staff members of an empty board have forwarded the cases to Superior Court judges in Wake County, who have “demonstrated a desire to make a difficult situation work,” said Josh Lawson, attorney for the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. “And we’re seeing that play out in multiple scenarios in the absence of our board.”
For example, the winners of races in Boone went to court in mid-December for an order allowing them to take their seats because a protester argued that the winners should have to wait until the elections board had members.