Repercussions from the 2016 election could have an impact on the 2018 election.
Among those repercussions: Jackson County currently doesn’t have a functioning elections board.
In the wake of Democrat Roy Cooper’s narrow gubernatorial win in 2016, the Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted a number of measures curbing or changing Cooper’s powers.
Prior to Cooper’s win, the governor appointed the five members of the state Board of Elections, with no more than three allowed from the same political party. The governor also had the power to appoint the agency’s executive director.
The legislature created a new board, the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, that combined functions enforcing election compliance formerly handled by the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission.
Under the new rules enacted following Cooper’s win, that board has nine members, four Democrats and four Republicans chosen from a list of six candidates put forth by state party chairs, and a ninth unaffiliated member chosen from two candidates agreed upon by those eight board members.
The rules have been challenged repeatedly in court by Cooper, who until last week had put forth no appointments under the new arrangement.
The governor recently filed a lawsuit responding to GOP attempts to change his appointment powers. It was the third lawsuit in response to three such attempts.
While the wrangling has been taking place since before he took office, Cooper has also refused to make appointments to the vacant board. Last week he announced he would make appointments but would continue legal challenges to HB 90.
The law took effect March 15 without Cooper’s signature.
That new law changes the structure of county election boards. Prior to enactment, county boards were comprised of three members, no more than two from a given political party.
In Jackson County, that three-member board became two members when Elections Chair Doug Cody stepped down after three years of service. The two-member board continued to carry out its duties.
However, the new law, which went into effect last week, calls for four-member boards equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The appointment of the four-member boards was supposed to have fallen to the state board, but as that board was vacant, Jackson County has found itself with a board impossible to form a quorum.
County Democratic and Republican Party chairs have each put forth three names for board membership, with two from each party to be selected by the state board once it is in place.