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Woodhouse replaced as Wake elections chair to comply with new GOP-passed law

Wake elections board members Mark Ezzell, center, and Eddie Woodhouse, right, listen as Gary Sims, director of the board, gives an update during a board meeting in downtown Raleigh on Oct. 9, 2017.
Wake elections board members Mark Ezzell, center, and Eddie Woodhouse, right, listen as Gary Sims, director of the board, gives an update during a board meeting in downtown Raleigh on Oct. 9, 2017. aspecht@newsobserver.com

To comply with a new elections law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly, the Wake County board of elections on Monday removed the chairman it had elected two weeks ago – the cousin of the state Republican Party’s executive director.

The Wake County Board of Elections on Monday appointed Democrat Mark Ezzell as the new board chairman. Ezzell replaces Eddie Woodhouse, a Republican and cousin of NC GOP director Dallas Woodhouse.

The then-three-member board had unanimously appointed Eddie Woodhouse as chairman to replace Ellis Boyle, a Republican who was about to step down from the board.

Ezzell said the board changed course to comply with a new state law that requires the chairperson of county elections boards to rotate between Republicans and Democrats each year – Democrats in odd years and Republicans in even years.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is suing legislative leaders over the change, which is tied up in the courts. The case could determine whether Republicans will have leadership on elections boards at the state and county level during presidential election years when North Carolina voters also elect their governor.

Josh Lawson, general counsel for the N.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, wrote a Sept. 29 letter to Ezzell and Woodhouse saying he believes Wake must comply with the new state law – meaning the chairperson should be a Democrat.

“We thought we were doing the right thing,” Ezzell said. “It was a bipartisan mistake.”

Local elections boards decide details such as polling locations and when sites open for voters to cast ballots early. Woodhouse said the board remains stable despite the change.

“Mark and I have a wonderful working relationship, in a nonpartisan fashion,” Woodhouse said, adding that board members operate in the “best interest of voters.”

The changes come roughly a year after Dallas Woodhouse lobbied Boyle, the recently-departed former chairman, to appoint Eddie Woodhouse as chairman. Dallas Woodhouse sent the email prior to a Wake board meeting to decide whether it would allow Sunday early-voting hours – which Boyle supported and Eddie Woodhouse opposed – before November's general election.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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