Under the Dome

NC Republicans withdraw nominations after elections board ruling

North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes at a news conference in Raleigh on June 14, 2017.
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes at a news conference in Raleigh on June 14, 2017. cseward@newsobserver.com

In the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling, the North Carolina Republican Party is withdrawing nominations it made in April to the combined State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

NCGOP General Counsel Thomas Stark sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday to tell him the party “rescinds its pending nomination” because “the Governor no longer has authority to appoint to this board until further action by the General Assembly or the trial court.”

The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the law that created a new ethics and elections board with an even split between political parties, and a lower court is expected to issue a more detailed order later this month. Legislators have said they might try to pass legislation on the topic that would comply with the ruling.

“It is disappointing that an effort to make the mechanism for North Carolina elections less partisan has resulted in partisan litigation,” Stark wrote to Cooper. “The North Carolina Republican Party is available for consultation if constructive dialogue can be undertaken.”

The state Democratic Party never made any nominations to the merged elections board, but NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes had nominated Francis De Luca, then-leader of the conservative Civitas Institute; Stacy "Four" Eggers IV of Boone, a former member of Watauga County Board of Elections; John "Jay" Hemphill of Raleigh, a former member of the State Board of Elections; John Lewis of Cabarrus County, legal counsel for the NCGOP; Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections; and Cherie Poucher of Raleigh, retired director of the Wake County Board of Elections.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court rejected a request from Cooper to accelerate the pace at which the legal case is resolved.

When the state’s highest court ruled for Cooper on Jan. 26, the order sent the case back to the panel of Superior Court judges who heard the case.

That order won’t be sent until Feb. 15, three days after the filing period opens for candidates seeking office.

The three-judge panel will then issue its own opinion that takes into account the findings of the higher court.

The Supreme Court, along party lines, found that lawmakers were within their rights to set the size of the board and its functions.

“The General Assembly cannot, however ... structure an executive branch commission in such a manner that the Governor is unable, within a reasonable period of time, to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed’ because he or she is required to appoint half of the commission members from a list of nominees consisting of individuals who are, in all likelihood, not supportive of, if not openly opposed to, his or her policy preferences while having limited supervisory control over the agency and circumscribed removal authority over commission members,” Justice Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV wrote for the Democratic majority on the court.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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