Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

NC Supreme Court strikes down law merging boards of elections, ethics

The North Carolina Supreme Court has struck down the General Assembly’s law that merged the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission.

The opinion was along party lines, with all Republican justices dissenting. Justice Samuel James “Jimmy” Ervin IV wrote the majority opinion and Chief Justice Mark Martin, joined by Justice Barbara Jackson, and Justice Paul Newby wrote dissenting opinions.

The majority opinion reverses a lower court’s decision to dismiss Gov. Roy Cooper’s lawsuit over the merging of the Boards because they did not have authority to hear the case.

Simply put, the opinion states, the Governor’s complaint does not raise a political question and he does have standing to bring the suit.

It orders the case be reconsidered by the lower court for further proceedings. In the meantime what is now the Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement will have to revert back to two separate agencies and work functions as they did prior to the merge.

Martin and Newby both wrote that they believed the majority opinion constrains the General Assembly’s constitutional authority to determine the structure of state administrative bodies.

“The only separation of powers violation in this case is this Court’s encroachment on the express constitutional power of the General Assembly,” Newby wrote.

You can read all the opinions below.

52PA17-2 by NC Policy Watch on Scribd


  1. Hunter

    January 26, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    An analysis of the differences of this 2018 Cooper v Berger decision and the 2016 McCrory v Berger decision would be a valuable gift to North Carolinians.

    McCrory v Berger was a 6-1 decision authored by Mark Martin, with Paul Newby dissenting.

    It seems in the 4-2-1 decision in Cooper v Berger, Mark Martin and Barbara Jackson appear to take a step back from the McCrory decision.

    It would be great to hear more on this apparent quick switch from Martin and Jackson.

  2. Dallas Woodhouse

    January 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    “In the meantime what is now the Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement will have to revert back to two separate agencies and work functions as they did prior to the merge.”

    I am not sure this statement is accurate, however it may be. As I recall the elections statues covering this were repealed and then later replaced with the new board.

    I don’t think the court can reestablished the old elections system that has been repealed.

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