North Carolina Republicans on Friday passed a major power grab, stripping the state’s Democratic governor of the authority to appoint a majority of members to state and county election boards and giving the heavily gerrymandered GOP legislature far more influence over how elections are run and certified in the battleground state.
In North Carolina, the governor dictates the political makeup of the state and county election boards, which are each composed of five members. Under Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, the boards have three Democrats and two Republicans. The governor appoints the members of the state board and the chair of the county boards. Under the new bill, those bodies would be evenly divided, with legislative leaders choosing the members of the state and local boards.
While that is theoretically more bipartisan, it is a recipe for gridlock that could hand sweeping new powers to Republicans in the legislature, who have a supermajority in both chambers due to the gerrymandered maps they drew in 2021.
If the state election board deadlocks and cannot certify a winner of an election, that power would instead go to the legislature. That means Republicans could determine the state’s presidential electors and potentially subvert the popular vote winner of the state if a Democrat carries North Carolina. “The legislature now gets to decide the outcome of all of our elections,” says Melissa Price Kromm, executive director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, a pro-democracy coalition in the state. “When people vote is the will of the people still going to be accepted in North Carolina?” (State and federal courts could still order that elections be certified, and in presidential elections the legislature would need to comply with the revamped Electoral Count Act passed by Congress in 2021, which makes it harder for rogue legislatures to overturn the will of the voters.)
The bill also makes it easier to overturn elections in another way: only five of eight members of the new state board need to vote in favor of redoing an election, compared to four out of five members under the previous law (the board would grow in size from five members to eight under the new bill).
In addition to subverting fair election outcomes, the bill could lead to a huge decrease in voter access as well. Local election boards currently determine the number of early voting sites in a county, but if those boards deadlock under the new legislation there would only be one early voting location per county. [Continue reading…]