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Elections, Ethics Chair asks for another extension to keep investigating 9th congressional district

Less than two days after a three-judge panel granted the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement an extension to preserve its structure and authority, Chairman Joshua Malcolm is asking for another one.

The Monday extension was granted to allow the current State Board to continue its investigation into the 9th congressional district absentee ballot fraud even after the court ruled its structure unconstitutional. It is supposed to last until noon Dec. 28 or until all the statewide elections are certified, whichever comes first, according to the order.

Lawmakers have since passed new legislation restructuring the State Board, but it won’t take effect until Jan. 31.

“I understand the nature of this correspondence to be out of the ordinary, and I appreciate the consideration of the Panel,” Malcolm wrote in the Wednesday letter to the court. “All parties to this matter have agreed that the board should remain in place pending the resolution of the investigation that has delayed certification in certain contests, including Congressional District 9.”

The letter goes on to give details about the legislative process passing House Bill 1029, which affects the structure of the State Board. Malcolm asks the court to extend the State Board’s structure and authority until the ballot fraud investigation is complete.

“Disputes and uncertainty about the board’s clear authority between December 28 and January 31 will substantially disrupt our efforts,” he wrote.

Malcolm cited the complexity of the ongoing investigation as the reason a transition between when the current extension expires and when the new legislation starts would work against the public’s interest and undermine ongoing activities.

In the version of the conference report, HB 1029, that both the House and Senate passed Wednesday, it contains a provision that would require a primary election if investigators found that there should be a new election in the 9th congressional district.

It was stripped from what the House Rules committee evaluated the night before, but added back in before a floor vote. Lawmakers had questions about certain aspects of the bill, particularly a provision that would extend the time the legislature gets for court-ordered redistricting and a provision that would make campaign finance investigations confidential, but no amendments could be made because of the conference report process.

The House passed HB 1029 with 81-18 votes and the Senate passed it with 34-3 votes — it had bipartisan support. It’s unclear, however, if Gov. Roy Cooper will support the bill or veto it.

He has allegedly been negotiating with lawmakers over the past couple weeks about the State Board but his office refuses to comment about that process.

The Governor’s spokesman, Ford Porter, did not respond to specific questions asking if Cooper had seen the new legislation, if he approved and if it indeed included provisions he negotiated for.

“North Carolinians deserve honest and fair elections, and the Governor is reviewing this legislation carefully,” Porter wrote in an email Wednesday.

Cooper has 10 days to veto the bill or sign it into law.

Read Malcolm’s full Wednesday letter to the three-judge panel below:

Correspondence 2018-12-12 by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

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