State Politics

Elections board overhaul hasn’t become law yet, but NCGOP already making nominations

N.C. GOP Chairman Robin Hayes, left, and Vice-Chair Michele Nix cheer as favorable results come in as Republicans gather to watch election returns at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley in Raleigh, NC on Nov. 8, 2016.
N.C. GOP Chairman Robin Hayes, left, and Vice-Chair Michele Nix cheer as favorable results come in as Republicans gather to watch election returns at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley in Raleigh, NC on Nov. 8, 2016. cseward@newsobserver.com

Republicans’ latest attempt to overhaul the state’s elections and ethics board is still awaiting Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto stamp, but the N.C. Republican Party is already nominating members for the new board.

Cooper has said he’ll veto Senate Bill 68, and he has until Friday to do so. It would combine the current State Ethics Commission and State Board of Elections into a single eight-member board, evenly split between the two major political parties. Currently, the state elections board has five members, three of whom are from the governor’s party.

The governor would select the members from lists provided by the parties.

Republicans say the bill was written to address concerns raised by a three-judge panel that struck down the legislature’s attempt to merge the boards following Cooper’s election last year. Democrats argue it’s an attempt to work around a pending lawsuit and reinstate an effort to strip Cooper’s power.

Once Cooper vetoes the bill, the House and Senate are expected to override the veto and pass the bill into law. Based on the initial votes on April 11, it appears Republicans have the three-fifths majority needed for a successful override.

That likelihood appears to have prompted N.C. Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes to announce his picks on Thursday. He proposed a list of six candidates, and if the bill becomes law – and isn’t put on hold by courts – Cooper would pick four.

Here’s who Hayes picked:

▪ Francis De Luca of Cary, leader of the conservative Civitas Institute and a former Ethics Commission member. De Luca sued the State Board of Elections last year seeking to delay the counting of absentee ballots.

▪ 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.

▪ Cherie Poucher of Raleigh, retired director of the Wake County Board of Elections.

The N.C. Democratic Party has not announced any nominations yet, and party spokesman Mike Gwin criticized the GOP’s move to pick board members before the overhaul becomes law.

“Before this unconstitutional bill is even on the books, Republicans are already moving to pack the state elections board with political cronies who will make it harder for North Carolinians to vote,” Gwin said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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