State Politics

Senate votes to override Cooper’s veto of elections overhaul

State Board of Elections members Joshua Malcolm, left, and A. Grant Whitney Jr. discuss early voting during a meeting Sept. 8, 2016, in Raleigh.
State Board of Elections members Joshua Malcolm, left, and A. Grant Whitney Jr. discuss early voting during a meeting Sept. 8, 2016, in Raleigh. tlong@newsobserver.com

The state Senate voted Monday night to go ahead with a plan to reconfigure oversight of elections in North Carolina despite a gubernatorial veto.

The attempt at a veto override will next be taken up in the House. The Senate vote to override was along party lines, 33-15.

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the elections bill, Senate Bill 68, on Friday, along with House Bill 239, which would reduce the state Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 members.

SB 68 would merge the state elections and ethics boards and split the new board evenly between Republican and Democratic appointees. It would require the governor to choose members of the board from lists provided by the political parties. The governor’s party now controls the elections board.

The Democratic governor says the evenly split board would lead to gridlock, and said the bill was a repeat of legislation struck down in court.

“It is ironic that Gov. Cooper lectured the legislature about pursuing ‘partisan power grabs’ when he vetoed a bill creating a bipartisan board to ensure our ethics and elections laws are enforced fairly — and for no other reason than to strengthen his own political advantage,” Sen. Bill Rabon, Republican chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said in a statement released after the vote.

“I am confident this change — which actually answers the court’s call to let the governor make all appointments to that board — is a step in the right direction for North Carolina.”

The bill was added to the Senate’s calendar a few minutes after the start of its work for the evening, and was immediately voted on with a brief introduction and no debate.

Lawmakers wrapped up without taking action on the Court of Appeals proposal. That bill had been expected to deprive the governor of naming replacements for three Republican judges who were due to reach mandatory retirement age. But one of those judges, Doug McCullough, resigned weeks early Monday and Cooper quickly appointed his replacement.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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