Governor-elect Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit on Friday challenging the General Assembly’s special session law that revamps the state elections board.
Cooper’s attorneys asked a Wake County Superior Court judge to block the law from taking effect while the lawsuit pends. Judge Donald Stephens granted the request after a one-hour hearing Friday afternoon.
The law was set to take effect on Sunday, when the North Carolina State Board of Elections would officially have ceased to exist. That change will be delayed for at least a week, and Stephens set another hearing on the case for Thursday.
The law would merge the elections board with the State Ethics Commission, which administers ethics laws governing lobbyists, elected officials and government employees. The merger was approved by the Republican-led legislature during its special session earlier this month and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, one of several changes attempting to limit the power Cooper.
Cooper’s attorneys argue in the lawsuit filing that the change violates the state’s constitution.
“The General Assembly passed a bill that, among other things, radically changes the structure and composition of the executive agency responsible for administrating our state’s election laws,” the lawsuit says. “Those changes are unconstitutional because they violate the separation of powers provisions enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution by shifting control over that agency away from the governor to the General Assembly.”…
Under the new law, the new elections and ethics board wouldn’t be able to take action with a simple majority – six of eight members must vote in favor. If the board deadlocks, matters could then be appealed to a Wake County Superior Court judge.
Cooper’s lawsuit argues that the supermajority requirement means the new board is “likely to be consistently deadlocked and unable to act” and therefore “will not be able to execute the election laws.”
The lawsuit also notes that if the board can’t get bipartisan agreement on early voting schedules – and courts decline to intervene – the schedules would default to the minimum number of hours allowed by law: A single site open only during weekday business hours and the Saturday before the election.
Cooper referenced that scenario in a news release Friday afternoon. “A tie on a partisan vote would accomplish what many Republicans want: making it harder for North Carolinians to vote,” he said. “It will result in elections with longer lines, reduced early voting, fewer voting places, little enforcement of campaign finance laws, indecision by officials and mass confusion.”