The current state Board of Elections will not be named because the chair of the state Republican Party has refused to put forward nominees to the state Board of Elections, obstructing action on the ongoing investigation into election irregularities in the 9th Congressional District, the Governor’s Office said Wednesday.
“All North Carolinians deserve to have confidence in a system of voting that ensures honest and fair elections,” Gov. Cooper said. “If politicians and the people they hire are manipulating the system to steal elections, all of us should pull together to get to the bottom of it and stop it — regardless of whether the candidate who finished ahead in a tainted election is a Republican or a Democrat.”
Under the current state law now in effect, the governor is to name five members to the North Carolina State Board of Elections selected from among a list of names provided by the two political parties with the highest number of registered affiliates. Gov. Cooper intended to name members to the Board quickly so it could continue without interruption its investigation into alleged election fraud in the 9th Congressional District race.
Last week, as required by law Governor Cooper called on the chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties to provide their lists of nominees. The Democratic Party put forward a list of nominees but the Republican Party has refused to provide any names and has discouraged Republicans from accepting any appointment to the Board.
To ensure that the Board remains fair and bipartisan and to make sure all North Carolinians have confidence in its decisions, Governor Cooper has declined to appoint a Board with only three members selected from the names put forward by the Democratic Party.
Instead, no Board members have been named due to the Republican Party’s failure to provide nominees to the Board. This failure could obstruct an ongoing investigation into disturbing allegations of election fraud and prevent a duly appointed, constitutional Board of Elections from being able to hear evidence and make an informed decision. For example, a hearing previously planned for January 11 on the 9th Congressional District investigation cannot go forward without members being named to the Board.
Under a new law passed by the General Assembly last month, the Board of Elections is returned to a constitutional structure—the same structure previously in effect for more than 100 years until 2016 when legislators made changes since deemed unconstitutional. This same constitutional structure is in effect for the Board today, since a panel of judges allowed the stay on an unconstitutional iteration of the board to expire.
The Republican Party claims that the current Board does not exist, which is absolutely incorrect. The judges dissolved their stay because they wanted the investigation and hearing process to move more quickly under the current Board, not for the state to be without a Board for more than a month.
Since the structure of the Board that exists today is exactly the same as the structure starting January 31 under the new law, Gov. Cooper envisioned appointing the same people to both Boards—the current one and the one to be formed Jan. 31. This would maintain continuity and inspire confidence in the Board’s decision-making.
The current refusal by Republicans to submit names could have been avoided if the legislature had never manipulated the Elections Board to begin with starting in 2016, or if they had not changed the law again last month. All told, the General Assembly has passed four laws changing the structure of the Board of Elections in two years.
“Quickly rooting out real election fraud should be a bipartisan effort. Today in North Carolina, we have a Board of Elections with five empty chairs because Republicans are blocking the way,” Gov. Cooper said.