As of 3:15pm Wednesday, we have a law creating a new NC Board of Elections (BoE) - the sixth attempt by the NC GOP to restructure this body, with the previous attempts having been overturned by the courts. This version largely reverts to the structure that existed when Gov. Cooper took office in 2016, with a few significant changes. It passed the Senate 34-3, with two Republicans and one Democrat voting against it. The House passed it 81-18, with 13 Democrats and five Republicans voting against it. Republican leaders have been conferring about it with the governor for a couple weeks; Cooper's office said, "North Carolinians deserve honest and fair elections and the Governor is reviewing this legislation carefully."
The Republicans chose to fast track the bill by inserting it into the shell of another piece of legislation. "The measure, which was put into a conference report, wasn’t released online to the public until over an hour into a House Rules Committee meeting on the subject. A final 19-page conference report was released to committee members less than 20 minutes before they voted to move it forward to the House floor... Because it is presented as a conference report, it can not be amended — not by a committee or on the chamber floors." (NC Policy Watch).
Key points of the bill:
- The current BoE will be split into two agencies: a five-member elections board appointed by the governor that would likely have a three-person majority of his or her party and an eight-member ethics commission that would have four people appointed by the governor and four by lawmakers, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
- The BoE will handle campaign finance investigations and the Secretary of State will handle lobbying enforcement.
- The split will take effect on January 31, which is a gap of a month since the current board expires on December 28. The current BoE has requested another extension to cover the gap.
- County BoEs will expand from four to five members, with the fifth member and chair appointed by the governor.
- The voter photo ID requirement is postponed from May until September 2019.
- Mail-in absentee ballots must be witnessed by two people who certify that they know the identity of the voter and that witness info will be submitted to the state BoE.
Highlights from Wednesday's episode of Bladen Runner (aka NC CD-9):
- The current NC Board of Elections has been granted another extension until December 28 (or until it certifies the CD-9 election, which it really can't do at this point) in order to complete its investigation.
- Calls for a new election are mounting on all sides based on new evidence that Dowless might have held on to absentee ballots and Bladen County BoE may have run its early voting totals early and leaked the results to "unknown parties."
- There was an attempt on Wednesday to include a provision in the BoE bill to mandate a new primary if there is a new election (which would mean Mark Harris might not be the Republican candidate), but it lacked support and was dropped. It magically reappeared in the version that passed on Thursday, so some arms got twisted overnight.
- A new election likely would cost ~$2.3 million, although Republicans in the NCGA did not provide a fiscal note with the BoE bill they rushed through.
- A photo has surfaced of Mark Harris and McRae Dowless together at a political event in March. Not evidence of election fraud, but just doesn't look good, does it?
Before we go, let's join the Columbia Journalism Review in a round of applause for the excellent investigative journalism by 26-yr-old Charlotte reporter, Joe Bruno, who uncovered the election fraud suggested by Michael Bitzer's analyses of absentee data and the BoE's refusal to certify the election result. Support good journalism!