Gov. Roy Cooper will select a new N.C. State Board of Elections on Thursday, Jan. 31, whose most pressing task is to reach a conclusion on the disputed results of the controversial election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
Four nominees have been put forward by each party for the new five-member board after a state court dissolved the previous nine-member board in December 2018.
Mitch Kokai, a senior political analyst at the conservative-leaning think tank, John Locke Foundation, said the nine-member board was an alteration from the how the state board operated prior to the 2016 election when Cooper was elected.
Kokai said the Republican-controlled General Assembly combined the elections board with the state ethics board, a move later declared unconstitutional shortly prior to the 2018 midterm elections. The board was still investigating the 9th district case when it got dissolved. The General Assembly passed a law, HB 1029, that restored the five-member board from prior to 2016 with only minor changes.
“So in many respects the law that the General Assembly finalized late last year re-established the system that we had in place prior to 2016," Kokai said. "There are a few minor changes, but as far as the makeup of the board, they’re basically back to what we had prior to the 2016 election."
N.C. GOP Chairperson Robin Hayes offered two new nominees on Jan. 26, David Black and Kenneth Raymond, after two previous nominees were questioned based on their ties to conservative policy institute Civitas and a PAC that advocated for voter ID, according to a report by the Associated Press.
N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-50, said his hope is that state Republicans were nominating qualified candidates. Meyer called on nominees chosen from both sides to examine closely the allegations into election fraud in District 9 and also to look into ways to prevent such controversies in the future.
“We need to make sure that in the future we have a Board of Elections that is paying attention to any effort to corrupt elections, including voter suppression, and trying to make sure that none of those things get in the way of the people of North Carolina believing that their vote counts and is counted,” Meyer said.
Once the new board is selected by Cooper, it will have three Democrats and two Republicans. This board will be tasked with, among other things, investigating allegations of election fraud in the, still uncertified, 9th congressional election.
The board will have to decide if there should be another election for the 9th congressional district.
Andy Jackson, an elections policy fellow at Civitas Institute, said there are certain criteria that have to be met, including whether a sufficient number of votes were impacted by the fraud allegations to change the outcome of the election.
Jackson said there is another, more subjective reason for calling a new election.
“(This reason is) where they just basically say that the entire election is tainted, and inherently unfair," he said. "For that one, you don’t actually have to have a number, but supposedly, it would have to be such a big mess that they could say there’s just no way we would ever know could have won, if this was a free and fair election.”
Jackson said based on the evidence that has been released so far, he did not see anything that warranted a new election, although he acknowledged not all information has been made public yet.
Robert Joyce, a professor in the UNC School of Government, emphasized that, in order to call a new election, the board still would need four out of five members to vote in favor of doing so. Three members could still refuse to certify the election results if they felt the investigation provided enough evidence that the election was tainted, he said.
He stressed that this would be an unprecedented move and did not expect it to happen.
“If three (Board of Elections members) dug in their heels and said we’re not willing to vote to certify, and you couldn’t get a fourth vote to order a new election, then I assume at that point, you have to go back to court for a court to sort it out,” Joyce said.
Joyce also said under HB1029, if a new election is called for, a new primary would need to take place before a new general election, which is a departure from the norm in such situations.
The eventual resolution to the 9th district allegations will become more clear once the new Board of Elections is selected on Jan. 31 and can begin holding hearings.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.