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State Supreme Court takes on Cooper’s lawsuit over Board of Elections, Ethics merger

The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to expedite Gov. Roy Cooper’s appeal over the General Assembly’s law merging the State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission.

The state’s highest court will hear arguments at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 28 [1] in Cooper v. Berger, et al. The Supreme Court’s decision to take the case bypasses a review by the State Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court has heard the case twice; once ruling mostly in favor of the Governor and once dismissing the case altogether.

Senate Bill 4 was passed during a special session in December, and the three-judge panel struck down much of that law. Instead of appealing their ruling, Republican legislators rewrote the law this session and passed it as SB68, the law the Supreme Court will review.

Both bills abolish the longstanding State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission and merge the two agency’s functions, along with campaign finance and lobbying functions. The difference between the two bills is that the eight-member “bipartisan” board under SB68 would require a five-member quorum (a simple majority) for election issues. SB4 required a six-member quorum. Ethics issues would still require a six-member quorum under the law in SB68.

The other difference is that Cooper will be able to appoint all eight members of the new board with recommendations from the two majority political parties. Members of the new board will be split between Democrats and Republicans. Cooper would not be able to choose the executive director of the Board.

Cooper has not yet appointed members [2] to the new Board.