GOP Lawmakers Say A New Election In NC's 9th Should Start With A Primary

Dec 11, 2018

File photo of a sample ballot from the 2018 midterm elections.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

State Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill to re-constitute the state elections and ethics boards, again.

After Democrat Roy Cooper won the governor's race in 2017, the General Assembly's GOP leadership changed the law to combine the elections and ethics boards and assume more control over appointing members.

In October, a court struck down that law, saying it violated the state constitution's separation of powers.

"The bill will mostly set things back to how they were before 2017, with a separate board of elections and state ethics commission," said state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), vice chair of the select committee on elections, speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

"The state board of elections will consist of five members, who will serve four-year terms," he said. "All will be appointed by the governor, with not more than three members coming from the same party."

The new law would not take effect until the current nine-member board completes its investigation into voting irregularities in North Carolina's ninth congressional district.

Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in uncertified results. The elections board refused to certify pending its investigation. Evidence released by the board  shows the suspicious handling of absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, especially by a Republican operative named McCrae Dowless.

This week, the elections board released a document showing Bladen County officials violated state law by releasing early vote tallies ahead of Election Day.

North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said such evidence warrants a new election in the 9th district.

Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett) told reporters that if a new election is called, the bill would require a new primary first.

"This is consistent, I would point out, with the law governing all other elections in the state, including special elections," Harnett said.

Republicans want to push the new bill through the General Assembly this week.