Gov. Cooper sues over a new law that strips governors of state elections board appointments

By: - October 18, 2023 6:00 am
Gov. Roy Cooper speaks at a podium

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (Photo: Screengrab from video feed)

Gov. Roy Cooper is suing Republican legislative leaders over a new law that takes away his ability to appoint members of the state Board of Elections. 

This is the second lawsuit Cooper has filed over new laws. He’s challenging a separate bill that reduces a governor’s appointments to state boards and commissions. 

The lawsuit filed Tuesday is over a law that changes the structure of the state elections board and local boards before the 2024 elections.

As it is now, governors appoint all five state board members based on recommendations from the major parties. The governor’s party has three seats. Under the new law, the state board would grow to eight members. Republican legislative leaders would appoint four members and Democratic leaders would appoint four. 

Republicans said the evenly-split board would force bipartisan cooperation. Opponents said it will lead to gridlock and reduced early voting access. 

County elections boards would have four members: two appointed by Republican legislative leaders and two appointed by their Democratic counterparts. 

Republicans overrode Cooper’s veto of this bill last week with party-line votes

Cooper’s lawsuit says the law violates the principle of separation of powers, because legislators take executive duties for themselves. 

“Showing flagrant disregard for these constitutional principles, the North Carolina General Assembly takes direct aim at established precedents and once again seeks to significantly interfere with the Governor’s constitutionally assigned executive branch duty of election law enforcement and to take much of that power for itself,” the lawsuit says. 

Republicans have tried before to change the Board of Elections and give legislators all the appointments. 

The state Supreme Court in 2018 rejected Republicans’ attempt to create an even-numbered elections board. 

Republican legislators voted to put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would have created an eight-member state board and given legislators all the appointments. The voters rejected it by a 2-to-1 margin. 

Cooper filed the suit in Superior Court.

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.