Court Upholds Governor’s Power to Appoint Elections Boards

Governor Cooper Wins Lawsuit Against The NC Republican Leadership

In a unanimous decision released last week, a special three-judge Superior Court panel struck down as unconstitutional the new law taking away Governor Cooper’s power to appoint state and county Boards of Elections.

The panel took less than two weeks after hearing oral arguments from the parties to issue its decision. The panel was composed of two judges elected as registered Republicans and one as a Democrat. Their unanimous decision found that the new law violates the NC Constitution’s delegation of executive power to the Governor. Instead, the new law took all appointment authority to the election boards away from the Governor, and gave the appointments instead to the legislature, violating the state constitution’s separation of powers provisions. 

A Win For Democracy

During the debate over the law’s passage, Gov. Cooper pointed out that the new law would create boards especially prone to partisan gridlock over critical issues like early voting sites and election challenges. “The legislative takeover of state and local elections boards could doom our state’s elections to gridlock and severely limit early voting,” said Cooper. “It also creates a grave risk that Republican legislators or courts would be empowered to change the results of an election if they don’t like the winner. That’s a serious threat to our democracy, particularly after the nation just saw a presidential candidate try to strongarm state officials into reversing his losing election result. Courts have already ruled the ideas in this bill unconstitutional, and voters overwhelmingly said no when the legislature tried to change the constitution.” 

The law changing appointments authority was passed last year over Governor Cooper’s veto, on party-line votes in the state House and Senate, responding to their party leadership. Republicans supported the change while Democrats opposed it. The change would be part of the Republican-led legislature’s ongoing attempt to centralize as much political power as possible in its own hands. Naturally, the same Republican legislative leadership has already announced that they will appeal the decision of the Superior Court panel to the NC Supreme Court.

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