As Melissa Boughton reported yesterday in the post immediately below, Gov. Roy Cooper has told the General Assembly to fix the election law bill they sent to him last week to remove a provision that would add a new level of secrecy to Board of Elections investigations.
Legislative Republicans — particularly Sen. Phil Berger — have issued fairly unhinged statements in response to Cooper’s stance, but the Guv should stick to his guns. As a Charlotte Observer editorial rightfully pointed out last week, the last thing our state needs right now is more secrecy in the enforcement of state election laws:
In October, state elections officials held a public hearing about Rep. Rodney Moore of Charlotte. They detailed what their investigation had found: that Moore had failed to report more than $141,000 in campaign contributions and expenditures, including nearly $25,000 in ATM withdrawals.
They referred his case to Mecklenburg DA Spencer Merriweather. Moore lost his reelection bid to Nasif Majeed, at least in part because of questions the Observer had raised about his campaign finances.
Now, a bill sits on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk that would have protected Moore and other elected officials being investigated for campaign finance irregularities. The legislation would make such inquiries confidential. Had this law been in place this year, the Board of Elections could not have disclosed what they found about Moore, or even that he was being investigated, and he could have been reelected by voters kept in the dark.
This is misguided public policy and Cooper should veto it.
But the section that makes campaign finance investigations private reeks of politicians protecting their own hides. State elections officials tell the Observer editorial board that the bill appears to prevent investigations and their findings from ever becoming public, short of criminal court proceedings. The board conducted more than 200 investigations in 2018. While many of those were minor, many were not, and it appears all, including those in which legislators had to pay a fine (unless it’s appealed), would have been kept secret under this bill.
Rep. David Lewis, who helped shepherd the legislation through the House, said in an email to the editorial board Friday that it is designed to protect candidates from any overly partisan board of elections. The board has a long history, however, of going after wrongdoers of both parties.
Cooper should use his veto, and insist on a clean bill that doesn’t include this provision.