Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed Damon Circosta, of the AJ Fletcher Foundation, to serve on the North Carolina State Board of Elections following the resignation of Chairman Bob Cordle.
Circosta served on a previous iteration of the State Board as the one unaffiliated member of nine partisan members. His voter registration shows he is now a Democrat – the change is likely because unaffiliated voters can’t serve on the State Board.
The State Board – now made up of five members; three Democrats and two Republicans – will meet at a soon-to-be-determined date to nominate its next chairperson. Cordle resigned after telling an inappropriate and sexist joke at an elections conference.
Circosta said he appreciated the faith the Governor put in him to carry out such an important role.
“Every election is important, but there has never been a better time in our state to put voters first,” he said in a news release. “I look forward to working with the State and County Boards of Elections to ensure elections are secure and that voters have confidence in the process.”
He is currently the Executive Director and Vice President of the AJ Fletcher Foundation. He’s worked in the nonprofit sector since 2007, and said previously he worked with both 2008 presidential candidates – Barack Obama and John McCain – on election issues.
His appointment did not go over well with Republican lawmakers. They had asked Cooper to appoint Gerry Cohen, who currently serves on the Wake County Board of Elections and formerly worked at the General Assembly.
“Governor Cooper isn’t even pretending that he cares about good government,” said Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) in a news release. “By appointing Damon Circosta to the Board today as the tie-breaking Democrat, he’s admitting that his previous appointment of Circosta as an ‘unaffiliated’ member was a sham.”
It’s not clear when Circosta changed his voter registration from unaffiliated to Democratic, but Cohen also changed his affiliation last year to try and secure appointment to the State Board. He had been a registered Democrat since 1971 and changed to an unaffiliated voter for two weeks – he was ultimately appointed to the Wake County Board of Elections as the Democrat he’d always been.
Hise said in his news release that Cooper chose “power politics” over legitimacy and fairness by not appointing someone all parties respect.
It should be noted that Republicans and Democrats on the previous iteration of the State Board had voted to put Circosta’s name forward to Cooper, along with Burley Mitchell’s, over Cohen.
One of Circosta’s first orders of business will be on Aug. 23, when the State Board will meet to consider adding stricter requirements to the voter system certification process. They will also consider certifying a new voting system ahead of the 2020 elections.
The Board had voted 3-2 to consider adding the stricter requirements, but then called another meeting to rescind its vote after one of them said he misunderstood what he was voting on. Without opponent Cordle’s vote, the Board deadlocked and the motion to rescind failed.
Circosta’s appointment will provide the tie-breaking vote on the requirements.
Disclosure: Policy Watch was originally founded as a project of the Fletcher Foundation in 2004 and became a part of the North Carolina Justice Center in 2007. The Justice Center remains a Fletcher Foundation grantee.