Wake County

His cousin lobbied for him. A year later, Woodhouse is Wake’s new elections chairman

Republican Eddie Woodhouse, left, is the new chairman of the Wake County Board of Elections. His cousin Dallas Woodhouse, right, is executive director of the North Carolina GOP.
Republican Eddie Woodhouse, left, is the new chairman of the Wake County Board of Elections. His cousin Dallas Woodhouse, right, is executive director of the North Carolina GOP. News & Observer file photos

The Wake County Board of Elections has a new chairman, and his name might sound familiar.

The board’s three members on Tuesday elected Republican Eddie Woodhouse, former Raleigh City Council candidate, as its chairman. The board’s previous chairman, Republican Ellis Boyle, said he plans to step down after serving an extended term while the courts consider a lawsuit over the future of elections boards across the state.

Woodhouse released a statement late Tuesday to say that he plans to uphold the board’s sterling reputation of being “among the nation’s best.”

“With 64 people daily moving into our area, it’s critical that a first-rate elections system be in place to accommodate that growth,” Woodhouse said.

The move comes a little over a year after Dallas Woodhouse, Eddie’s cousin who works as executive director of the North Carolina GOP, asked Boyle in an email to make Eddie Woodhouse chairman of the board.

The email, which Dallas Woodhouse sent to Boyle’s private account, drew a rebuke from Boyle. Dallas Woodhouse, for his part, said Boyle’s private account is the only email he had. Dallas Woodhouse also said he sought change on the board not necessarily to benefit his cousin, but because the party was frustrated with Boyle.

Local elections boards decide voting details such as polling locations, early voting sites and when those are open for voters to cast their ballots early. Dallas Woodhouse sent the email prior to a Wake board meeting over whether it would allow Sunday early-voting hours (which Boyle supported and Eddie Woodhouse opposed) before November’s general election.

Eddie Woodhouse said he and other board members have worked hard to earn voters’ trust.

“Wake County citizens and taxpayers rightfully demand that their election process be executed at the highest level, free from partisanship, and worthy of their participation,” he said.

The Wake County Republican Party, for its part, released a statement to say that the transition will bring a “refreshing” change.

“While serving in a bi-partisan style as a Board Member, Eddie has showed courage by being the sole ‘no’ vote on issues critical to the local elections process,” said Charles Hellwig, Wake GOP chairman. “He’s a proven force for elections that are free of voter fraud.”

Boyle is departing now because the state Supreme Court earlier this month gave local elections boards permission to operate with only two members during a period when new members can’t be added to the boards.

Each of the board members’ terms expired this summer but they were allowed to continue serving while the courts deliberated the lawsuit, filed earlier this year by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. 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.

Boyle’s departure is not a surprise, said Gary Sims, director of the Wake board. Boyle and Mark Ezzell, the board’s lone Democrat, disclosed weeks ago that they don’t plan on seeking another term on the board.

“He went way above and beyond,” Sims said of Boyle. “He kept staying on because he was committed to making sure we were ready to go for this municipal election.”

Elections for the Raleigh City Council and the Cary Town Council are scheduled for Oct. 10, and early voting has already started.

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