Under the Dome

Wake County elections board may be unable to appeal court ruling

Wake County school board and government maps were ruled unconstitutional.
Wake County school board and government maps were ruled unconstitutional. News & Observer

The state Republican Party missed Wednesday’s window to nominate a person to fill the vacancy on the Wake County Board of Elections, an action that could impact the ongoing legal fight over election maps.

Under state law, the State Board of Elections fills vacancies on county election boards by selecting from nominees recommended by the state chair of the political party of the vacating member.

But the state GOP missed both the state board’s meetings on July 18 and Wednesday to recommend replacements for Brian Ratledge, who resigned from the Wake board on July 17 to become general counsel for the state Department of Administration.

The ongoing vacancy means the Wake County Board of Elections may be unable to continue its fight against a federal court ruling that tossed the state legislature’s election maps for the Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board.

The Wake County Board of Elections is the lone defendant in the case because it’s charged with implementing the election maps.

Before his resignation, Ratledge helped form a 2-1 majority on the Wake board to appeal a July 1 decision against the maps. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the request to have all of its members review the three-judge panel’s ruling that the maps are unconstitutional.

With its current two members, the Wake board is unlikely to agree to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore quickly get their request approved to be added as defendants, efforts to overturn the ruling could end.

Wake election officials say they need to know by Aug. 10 which maps to use. Three options have been proposed by the different groups:

▪ Reinstate the 2011 maps that were adopted by the school board and commissioners before they were replaced by the General Assembly;

▪ Draw up new election maps to use for the Nov. 8 election;

▪ Allow the contested maps to be used this fall only until the General Assembly draws up new maps next year.