Forsyth to get new election board soon

Forsyth County Board of Elections

Forsyth to get new election board soon
March 22
05:00 2018

Gov. Cooper finally appoints State BOE

There will soon be a very different makeup for the Forsyth County Board of Elections, but that may change as the court battle over election boards continues.

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed eight members to the new State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. This includes Forsyth County’s BOE Chairman Republican Ken Raymond, who has resigned his local position so he can serve on the state board. The state board has set empty for nearly 300 days due to a lawsuit Cooper filed against a state law, which Republican legislators passed shortly after he won his seat in 2016. That law would change election boards from having a majority that reflects the governor’s party to an eight-member board that’s evenly divided.

The State Supreme Court ruled in Cooper’s favor, striking down the change in State BOE makeup, but not the entire law, and remanded it to a three-judge panel to issue the final court order.

Since then, Cooper filed a proposed order asking that the law be struck down in its entirety.

The GOP-led General Assembly then passed a change to the law that will add a ninth member to their proposed State BOE lineup, who won’t be registered with either party. This change was included in legislation involving public school class sizes and preschool funding that Cooper wanted, so he let it become law without signing it, and he’s since appointed BOE members in accordance to that law.

In a press release last week, Cooper spokesperson Ford Porter said that since the court case could take months, the governor wanted a State BOE in place for this year’s elections. The eight new members were scheduled to be sworn in on Wednesday, after the Chronicle’s deadline, and submit two nominations for Cooper to pick the board’s ninth unaffiliated member from. As of deadline, there’s been no date set for the State BOE to appoint county BOE members but it’s expected to happen within the next couple weeks.

County boards have had three members, with the Republican in majority since there was no State BOE to appoint new members last year. The new county election boards will be evenly split four-member boards. Local political parties already submitted their candidates last year for county boards. The local Republican Party submitted Raymond, current BOE member Stuart Russell, Jonathan Dills and John Loughridge for either the state or county board. The local Democratic Party nominated Robert Durrah, John Merschel and current board member Susan Campbell for the local BOE.

Forsyth County Republican Party Chair Brian Miller said he supports the changes to the BOE.

“I would think everyone would be delighted to have a stable, non-partisan Board of Elections,” said Miller. “The right to vote, the right to the ballot box, to me, is the ultimate right we have as citizens, therefore I want to see it administered in a bipartisan matter, I don’t want to see it leaning one way or the other.”

He also said that the lack of  a State BOE had “everybody hung up” since it couldn’t do its duties, such as approving voting machines. This has resulted in counties like Forsyth being forced to use paper ballots in the primary early voting.

Forsyth County Democratic Party Chairman Eric Ellison said he agreed with the governor’s actions, both in appointing a board now for the election and for continuing to challenge the new law in court, which Ellison was confident would be found unconstitutional. He said this was really about  Republicans stripping a Democratic governor of his powers and not bipartisan fairness.

“At no other point in time have these people shown any interest in being bipartisan,” said Ellison. “They have taken a hacksaw to our democracy, taken a hacksaw to our government, and are just looking at ways to maintain power at all costs.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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