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Senate Dems follow elections bill, investigation money ahead of vote

As the fate of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement looms, so does the possibility of a do-over election in the 9th congressional district.

State Board investigators have been examining allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the 9th congressional district, and calls for a new election are mounting. What hasn’t been publicly discussed, though, is the price tag of such an outcome.

Senate Democratic staff released data Tuesday night which show that a special election would cost about $2.3 million. That projection is based on actual county expenditures from the 2014 and 2016 elections.

It’s not yet known if there will be a special election, but Republicans have rallied behind one, and even Mark Harris, the Republican candidate at the center of the fraud investigation, reportedly said he would be understanding of one.

The investigation, though, is still very much ongoing — so much so that a court granted an extension for the current State Board to continue on through noon Dec. 28, despite its structure being recently ruled unconstitutional.

In the meantime, Republican lawmakers are working on a measure to restructure the State Board via a conference report that cannot be amended or changed by anyone. The House and Senate are both expected to vote on that bill, House Bill 1029, today, without any information about the potential cost of changes.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders have been in a bitter power struggle and legal battle over the State Board since before Cooper even took office in 2016. Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) has claimed this new measure reflects some of the Governor’s wishes, but it’s not clear if he actually approves, which could lead to a veto and, ultimately, more costly litigation.

Still, Lewis has said the 9th congressional district investigation has created a sense of urgency, and so the associated legislation is being fast-tracked — fiscal note or no fiscal note.

The Senate Rules committee is set to take up HB 1029 at 11 a.m., and the below table might provide helpful context about prior State Board budgets as they review the measure before a vote. The information also was released by Senate Democratic staff.

Budget history for the State Board of Elections/Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement

Total amount appropriated by Fiscal Year to the State Board of Elections from 2010 through 2018. *Note: FY 2018-19 is the first year that the Ethics Commission and Lobbying Compliance division budgets are shown within the State Board of Elections.
Fiscal YearRequirementsReceiptsNet Appropriation
FY 2009-1010,644,2595,786,5104,857,749
FY 2010-117,139,735781,5856,358,150
FY 2011-126,883,7511,486,0415,397,710
FY 2012-135,682,444468,9995,213,445
FY 2013-146,432,429104,5356,327,894
FY 2014-157,807,7901,004,5356,803,255
FY 2015-167,993,7101,233,1966,760,514
FY 2016-177,544,985852,1646,692,821
FY 2017-187,127,847475,2116,652,636
FY 2018-19*9,524,459*1,028,651*8,495,808*

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