Courts & the Law, Legislature, News, Special Session

Senate bill seeks to create new bipartisan Board of Elections agency, restore partisan court races, diminish power of NC Supreme Court

A bill filed by Senate Republicans on Wednesday night would take away the political advantage of having Governor-elect Roy Cooper appoint positions to the State Board of Elections by creating a new, bipartisan agency: the Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

The Board would consist of eight members; four Republicans and four Democrats appointed by the governor and the General Assembly, and they would serve four-year terms. This would make it impossible for a Democratic majority on the State Board of Appeals under Democrat Cooper’s appointments.

The bill would also restore partisan elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and change the appeals process, making it more difficult to get cases to the high court.

There had been rumors swirling before this special session that the General Assembly would try to add justices to the court in an effort to gain back partisan control. An expansion of the court was not introduced, but it appears this bill attempts to diminish the power and the influence of the Supreme Court.

Democrat Mike Morgan was recently elected to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court in the nonpartisan race. His election flipped the court to a 4-3 Democratic majority.

There was some speculation that Morgan’s 54.45 percent win came because his name was above incumbent justice Robert Edmunds’ on the ballot, a placement held by Republican candidates in other judicial races on the rest of the ballot. The high court candidates also were not identified by their parties on the ballot because the race was non-partisan (though support for each campaign was partisan).

And finally, the bill would give outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory the right to name the chair of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, another power Cooper would have as incoming governor if this bill isn’t passed.

During the special session Thursday, Cooper tweeted that “#NCGA should focus on higher teacher pay, better wages for working North Carolinians and repealing HB 2.”

Of course, this bill is only one of a flurry of bills from both the House and Senate that were filed in the last hour Wednesday night. You can see all the bills here and here. And the excitement will continue Thursday as the House reconvenes at 10:30 a.m. and the Senate at 9 a.m.

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