Not that anyone would ever expected Republican lawmakers in Raleigh to give a hoot, but it’s worth noting that almost all local elections officials are none too happy with one of the more controversial provisions in the new Republican bill to merge the state Board of Elections and Ethics Commission. We know this because of an interesting incident that took place yesterday morning at a North Carolina Association of Directors of Elections Conference in Wilmington.
According to an observer who contacted NC Policy Watch, Greg Gebhardt, a staffer for bill sponsor Rep. David Lewis, was addressing the group and was asked a question by an official from Anson County about how boards would possibly be able to avoid gridlock and make controversial decisions under the proposed GOP changes (which increase the boards from three members to four and mandate that they be split equally between Republicans and Democrats). According to the observer, Gebhardt replied that it would be a matter of “whoever has the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing.”
At this point, there was a loud groan/roar of disagreement in the room and an official from Yadkin County spoke up and pressed Gebhardt to seek the opinion of the 300 or so officials in the room regarding the change. When Gebhardt replied that didn’t have time to talk to everyone in the room, the Yadkin official persisted and urged him to seek a show of hands.
Faced with a room full of frustrated local county elections officials, Gebhardt acquiesced and asked “who thinks that they can make a four-member board work?” At this point roughly 10 to 12 hands were raised. The other 290 or so officials present kept their hands at their sides.
Gebhardt replied that he would share this information with Rep. Lewis, but as is so often the case with public input and the conservative North Carolina General Assembly, the information from experts in the field is certain to have zero impact as Lewis has already signed off on the change and helped shepherd it through the House yesterday afternoon.
In any logical world, Gebhardt — a public employee — would share his findings with Governor Cooper as the bill now rests on his desk. For some reason, however, we’re not holding our breath on that one.