Commentary

Editorial gets it right on GOP’s cynical elections power play

This morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com is on the money with its assessment of the latest moves by North Carolina Republicans with respect to the state Board of Elections. As the editorial (“Legislative efforts to give GOP upper hand only gain election confusion”) points out, the latest move by the GOP to rush through partisan alterations of the Board are painfully transparent and disingenuous:

“The continuing efforts by the Republican leadership to push a heavy thumb on the elections process — through significant changes in the way the state Board of Elections was composed — were rushed into law. There was no investigation as to the need for the changes or how they’d make the elections process work better for voters or candidates.  The only justifications were it would enshrine Republican Party domination of the election process and they had the votes to do it.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has rightly challenged the law. Even setting aside any legitimate questions as to the very need for the changes, there are significant questions as to whether the legislature acted within its authority and if the laws are constitutional. The state’s courts are the appropriate forum to address these very real issues.

The General Assembly, no matter what faction might control it, isn’t omnipotent nor infallible. Given the legislature’s less than stellar record in the court when challenged over the last few years, scrutiny is more than appropriate.

More to the point, the campaign season is underway. There is no fully functioning state board. Similarly, a quarter of the county elections boards are not able to fully function at a time when many important decisions need to be made – most basically the location of polling places and early voting hours.

Rather than working to fix a problem he helped create, state House Rules Committee Chairman, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, complained in a letter to the governor, that he should drop his lawsuit and ‘allow House Bill 90 to take effect and work with the General Assembly to address any of your remaining concerns.’

Here’s a worthy course of action for Lewis and his fellow legislative leaders, if they truly care about the efficient and fair conduct of elections in North Carolina.

Repeal their changes, convene a bipartisan study commission – with members equally drawn from the two dominant political parties, as well as from the courts and legal community, elections officials and executive branch of government – to examine key issues and come up with recommendations for changes. Give such a commission time to do its work and a mandate that all its proceedings be conducted in public.”

Let’s hope other observers keep demanding similar action. Unfortunately, based on years of past, hyper-partisan performance from the legislature’s conservative leadership, such action seems unlikely to occur absent a lot more passionate and determined activism and advocacy from the people of North Carolina.

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