The N.C. Court of Appeals has declined to review an election complaint that was kicked up to the court because neither the state nor Carteret County currently has an active elections board – leaving the complaint in legal limbo.
The complaint involves a municipal election and was referred to the court because Carteret County’s elections board has too many vacancies to take action, and the state elections board is vacant.
Andrea Smith is challenging the eligibility of three candidates for mayor and city council in Morehead City, arguing the candidates don't live within the boundaries of the city.
But it now appears that there won't be a ruling on the candidates’ eligibility until Gov. Roy Cooper's lawsuit challenging changes to the state elections board is resolved. On Aug. 2, a clerk for the N.C. Court of Appeals wrote to Smith.
“Because the North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement has not entered a decision in this matter, it does not appear that the North Carolina Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to take any action on your letter and attached documents,” clerk Daniel M. Horne Jr. wrote. The letter doesn’t say which of the court’s judges, if any, were involved in the decision. State law directs appeals of state election board decisions to the Court of Appeals.
The unusual situation stems from Cooper’s lawsuit challenging a Republican-sponsored law that merges the state’s election and ethics boards and creates a new board with an even number of Republicans and Democrats – instead of the Democratic majority Cooper could have appointed under the old system. The N.C. Supreme Court will take up the appeal in August, but for now, the court has issued an order that keeps the agencies merged but doesn’t require any appointments to the new board.
The new board would be responsible for filling the county board in Carteret and elsewhere, and while some county boards still have three members who can take action on complaints, a resignation means Carteret only has two board members – short of the three-member quorum required.