Several legal challenges involving this year’s municipal election filing process will likely go directly to the N.C. Court of Appeals because the state’s election board is vacant, and a number of county election boards don’t have enough members to take action.
The unusual situation stems from Gov. Roy 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 the court has issued an order that keeps the agencies merged for now yet doesn’t require any appointments to the new board.
On Tuesday, the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement turned down an appeal from a would-be candidate in Henderson County who sought a state elections board hearing. John F. Moore Jr., 20, is challenging the county elections board’s finding that he’s too young to run for office because the state constitution says candidates must be at least 21.
“No administrative relief is available to your client at this time,” the elections agency wrote to Moore’s attorney. “I have enclosed a copy of the Supreme Court’s order and G.S. 163-127.6, should you pursue review elsewhere.”
That’s a reference to state law that says the N.C. Court of Appeals will handle any appeals of state elections board decisions. Typically, few cases make it to that level, but the court could find itself busy with election matters until the Supreme Court settles Cooper’s lawsuit.
While it’s unclear if Moore will file his appeal to the Court of Appeals, several other challenges could get their first hearing there. According to the Board of Election and Ethics Enforcement, three challenges have been filed in Carteret County, one of at least 12 counties where the county elections board has only two members following resignations. The Carteret board needs three members to take action, so those three challenges will go to the Court of Appeals.