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Wake elections board rejects attempt to disqualify NC senator's reelection

N.C. Sen. Lisa Grafstein, D-Wake, listens during a Jan. 4 Wake County Board of Elections hearing on a residency challenge that sought to remove her from the 2024 ballot.
Colin Campbell
N.C. Sen. Lisa Grafstein, D-Wake, listens during a Jan. 4 Wake County Board of Elections hearing on a residency challenge that sought to remove her from the 2024 ballot.

The Wake County Board of Elections has rejected a request to disqualify state Sen. Lisa Grafstein from running for reelection.

Grafstein, D-Wake, moved to a different district in November, after new redistricting maps put her old home in the same district as fellow Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake. She’s now seeking a second term in a southern Wake district.

Grafstein’s Republican opponent filed the challenge to get her removed from the ballot. He said she can’t run in the new district while continuing to represent her old district in the Senate.

"She shouldn’t be able to have it both ways," Scott Lassiter told election officials. Lassiter is a Wake County soil and water board member who made headlines earlier this year for suing House Speaker Tim Moore over allegations Moore had an affair with his wife.

"Light needs to be shed on what I consider to be constitutional irregularities," Lassiter said.

The N.C. Republican Party called on Grafstein to resign her current seat after she moved, but Senate leader Phil Berger said he's not aware of any effort to remove her from the Senate. She argued that it's legal for her to finish her term despite the move.

"The reality is, our constitution has very specific requirements for members of the General Assembly, and those requirements do not include residing in the district once you're elected," she said.

Wake Board of Elections Chairwoman Erica Porter noted that her board isn't responsible for determining the fate of Grafstein's current term, and Thursday's hearing was limited to considering her legal residence for the 2024 election.

The Wake County Board of Elections found that Grafstein is eligible to run because she moved to the new district more than a year before the 2024 election. She presented documents showing that she leased an apartment and hired movers prior to Nov. 5, and the home she owns in her current district is now under contract to be sold.

"I think it was the right decision," Grafstein told reporters after the hearing. "I think it was pretty clear that I've moved and did exactly what I said I was going to do to try to continue to represent citizens of Wake County."

Lassiter says he hasn't yet decided if he'll appeal Thursday's decision to the State Board of Elections. He doesn't plan to take any action to challenge Grafstein's ability to finish her current term.

"I'm going to trust the leadership in the North Carolina state Senate to make that decision, or some aggrieved citizen that is in northern Wake (Grafstein's current district) that truly feels unrepresented by a state senator," he told reporters.

Grafstein said the legislature's decision to wait until October to release new district maps left her and other candidates to scramble to make plans when the lines finally became public. She had just days to make her move official.

"It really feels like it was meant to be a crunch there at the end," she said. "And I have to think that some of that was not necessarily just about me or specific people, but about the idea of keeping the maps under wraps until closer to the filing deadline."

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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