Loading...
God bless all those who paid the ultimate price for freedom. We remember you. We honor you. We thank you....

N.C. elections agency needs a boss

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service.

Loading…

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Imagine if your bosses got fired, and for more than six months, no one replaced them. You’re not allowed to perform the tasks that your bosses do, so you’re stuck trying to keep things running without much authority.

Since June, that’s been the reality for the state agency charged with overseeing North Carolina elections. Gov. Roy Cooper is battling legislative leaders in court over a law that changes the composition of the state elections board, which governs the agency. Legislators want the board to have an even number of appointees from the two major political parties, while Cooper wants to keep the old system where the governor’s party has a majority.

The courts allowed parts of the new law to take effect this spring, but judges told Cooper he doesn’t have to make any appointments until the lawsuit is resolved. So he hasn’t, and the board that ensures the wheels of democracy roll smoothly has been sitting vacant since June. The N.C. Supreme Court hasn’t yet held a hearing on the case, so a ruling could still be months away.

Fortunately, 2017 didn’t include any statewide elections. But the vacant elections board is wreaking havoc on several local elections where problems have emerged in the week’s since the November election. The most troubling example involves a mayoral election in Sharpsburg, a small town between Wilson and Rocky Mount that happens to be split between three counties.

Voters in the Wilson County section of town were required to drive six miles to another town to vote — only to find out that the polling place had run out of ballots. It took more than two hours for more ballots to be printed and delivered, and by that time many voters had left. Some returned later, some didn’t.

In the past, similar problems have prompted the state elections board to extend voting hours. The media spreads the word, and voters get a few extra evening hours to come back and cast ballots. But without a state elections board, that didn’t happen.

Several voters, many of them African-American, say they were deprived of their right to vote because of the ballot shortage. Their preferred candidate, Robert Williams, lost by just three votes, and there’s a good chance the outcome might have been different if voting hours were extended.

Now Williams — with help from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice — is calling for a new election. The Wilson County Board of Elections determined there’s “probable cause” for Williams’ request, and it will hold a formal hearing later this month. But here’s the problem: County elections boards can’t order a new election, they just make recommendations. That authority belongs to — wait for it — the state elections board, which doesn’t currently exist.

Elections board attorneys say requests for new elections should be forwarded to Wake County Superior Court, which typically would handle appeals of elections board decisions. But an attorney seeking a new election in Boone argues that approach won’t pass legal muster. Instead, he’s calling on Cooper to appoint elections board members and says the election can’t be resolved until there’s a new elections board.

So what’s the problem in Boone? Another issue stemming from the vacant state board, which wasn’t around to settle a dispute over early voting locations. That dispute got sent to the court system, which issued a last-minute ruling that meant early voting sites weren’t publicized in advance. That’s prompted a request for a new election there.

Both the Sharpsburg and Boone complaints could be easily resolved if only the elections agency had bosses. A temporary resolution that fills the elections board — at least on an interim basis pending a ruling — is long overdue. And it’s up to Cooper, the boss of the state, to make appointments or seek permission from the courts to allow him to make temporary appointments. No pressure, governor, but democracy is depending on it.

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service. Follow him at NCInsider.com or @RaleighReporter. Write to him at ccampbell@ncinsider.com.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

May 24, 2018

In a recent interview with NPR, Trump's chief of staff John Kelly described the illegal aliens pouring across our border in the most gentle manner imaginable.

He said that illegal aliens aren't "bad people," but also "not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern…

AnnCoulter

May 24, 2018

Since the "Russiagate" probe began, U.S. president Donald Trump and his supporters have used lots of bandwidth raging against what they refer to as the "deep state." Does the deep state exist? If so, what is it, and are its forces arrayed specifically against Donald Trump and his administration?…

Knapp

May 23, 2018

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, recently told NPR that undocumented immigrants are "not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are…

Steve and Cokie Roberts

May 23, 2018

Robert Mueller's investigation into whether President Donald Trump and the Russians colluded to rig the 2016 presidential election so far has borne little fruit. The Democrats and their media allies would love to find some Russian collusion and interference. I can help them discover some, but I…

walter williams

May 23, 2018

Last week Turkey recalled its ambassadors to America and Israel. That decision came in response to Israeli forces killing 60 Palestinian protestors attempting to cross the Gaza border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Israeli actions a "genocide" on Turkish TV; Israeli Prime Minister…

zev190.jpg

May 22, 2018

Legalizing marijuana makes sense for a lot of reasons, but there's one valuable thing we'll lose when police stop arresting people for smoking pot: A sense of just how misleading our crime data are.

Data on arrests and reported crime play a big role in public policy and law enforcement. Politicians…

Cathy O'Neil

May 22, 2018

The Charleston, South Carolina, Gazette

When a young Canadian committed a massacre recently by driving a rental truck into Toronto pedestrians, many people at first assumed it was another jihadist terror attack. But it actually was an entirely different type of menace.

Alek Minassian, 25, was…

May 22, 2018

Last week's massive teacher march and rally was the best example of democracy in action that the state legislature has seen in years.

I'd been skeptical that the turnout would meet the ever-increasing predictions offered by organizers. Raleigh's weather that day felt like a tropical rainforest…

Colin Campbell

May 21, 2018

One of the oddities of our political moment is how frequently we are asked to tease out the layers of meaning of remarks by President Donald Trump as though he had chosen them with the care of a good poet. The latest controversy - although by the time this appears it may have been overtaken by…

PONNURU

May 21, 2018

What is a tax increase? Sounds like a simple question. But when politics intrudes, simple becomes complicated — or even convoluted.

One possible definition is that a tax increase is when you pay more taxes this year than you did last year. But what if you get a pay raise at work? All other…

john hood.jpg
280 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 28
        Next Page»   Last Page»