Courts & the Law, News

UPDATED: General Assembly overrides veto of ethics commission, election board merger

UPDATED: to reflect a response from Gov. Roy Cooper’s Office.

If you can’t win in court, don’t appeal because you may lose again. Just rewrite the law that was struck down and try again.

It worked for the N.C. General Assembly on Tuesday, when House members voted 75-43 to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 68, which would merge the state Elections Board and the state Ethics Commission.

The Senate already voted last night to override the veto, so the bill is now law — at least until Cooper decides to challenge it in court again.

“Legislative Republicans have repeatedly worked to restrict access to the ballot box, and time and again their attempts to rig elections have been found unconstitutional,” said Ford Porter, a spokesman for Cooper. “This bill simply repackages similar legislation that has already been struck down by the Court. Governor Cooper will continue to protect the right to vote and fight for fair elections.”

A three-panel judge ruled in Cooper’s favor in March that merging the agencies in Senate Bill 4 was an unconstitutional power grab from the executive branch.

Republicans insist that the differences between SB4 and SB68 address the judiciary’s concerns, but Democrats say the “bipartisan” bill will lead to gridlock, dysfunction and more litigation.

Several House Democrats spoke out against the bill on the chamber floor, including Democratic Leader Darren Jackson and Rep. Henry Michaux Jr. (D-Durham).

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) defended the bill and said Cooper should be able to find people to serve on the new board who are not hyper-partisan, and who will make decisions without deadlock. He said if the board fails, he’ll be the first to write a bill to fix it.

Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) also defended the bill and spoke about his concerns about voter fraud and voter suppression, noting how easy it is to vote currently in North Carolina.

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