Gov. Roy Cooper is going to win some and lose some in what apparently are going to be endless courtroom confrontations with Republican lawmakers determined to reduce his power and increase theirs, no matter the blatant partisanship or foolishness involved.
One act of utter irresponsibility is the General Assembly’s action to merge the state Board of Elections and the ethics commission into one group, with eight members. They would be selected – four Republicans and four Democrats – by the governor from lists submitted by the two parties. Cooper just lost an attempt to overturn that change on constitutional grounds.
As it stands, or has stood, the governor’s party (Democratic) controlled a majority on the five-member statewide elections board, which picks the members of local elections boards in all 100 counties.
When Cooper’s predecessor, Pat McCrory, was in, that’s how it worked, and Republicans were in charge at the state and local levels.
Ah, but GOP leaders enjoying and abusing their majority on Jones Street care nothing for fairness or for good sportsmanship. The rearrangement they have passed, merging the boards and evening the members of each party, is irresponsible and sets the board up for endless stalemates. That’s likely exactly what the Republican leaders have in mind, just as they’ve tried to hinder Cooper’s Cabinet selections and his appointive power throughout state government.
GOP leaders Phil Berger, president pro tem of the Senate, and House Speaker Tim Moore ought to know that in Cooper they’re dealing with a savvy former legislator who knows how Jones Street works, and has an ability to connect with a broad cross section of North Carolinians, should it become necessary for him to take his case to the people. That wasn’t so with McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who was pushed around by legislators from his own party and seemed at sea in terms of understanding how state government worked.
This particular change shows just how extreme the GOP will be in manipulating state government. The ethics commission and the elections board should of course be separate. The ethics group deals with all sorts of questions regarding behavior of state officials far beyond just elections.
Berger and Moore gave away their real motivation for this – not that they much care if the public knows they’re up to something – when in the change it was written that a Republican will head the new combined board in presidential years. That’s playing it cute, and a slap in the face for Democrats and fairness, because voter turnout and thus the potential impact of rulings by the elections board are greatest in those years.
Are GOP lawmakers really going to subject the people of North Carolina to four years of bashing Cooper and attempting to dilute his rightful authority – he, unlike lawmakers, was elected statewide, after all – while they continue to bash public schools and the poor and the sick while they boost tax breaks for the wealthy? Apparently, the answer is, sadly, yes.