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Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Democratic Party have filed separate lawsuits against two bills passed by the N.C. General Assembly's Republican supermajority after Cooper vetoed them.

Cooper’s lawsuit targets Senate Bill 512, a bill that allows legislators the power to appoint executive state board members. The N.C. Democratic Party's lawsuit concerns Senate Bill 747, which alters state election law.

Cooper vetoed both bills on Aug. 24, and the General Assembly overrode both vetoes on Oct. 10.

S.B. 512

The appointment of members to state boards and commissions has historically been reserved for the governor. S.B. 512 moved this power to the General Assembly.

Cooper filed an injunction in Wake County Superior Court, challenging provisions in the law that he called a "blatantly unconstitutional legislative power grab" in a press release. 

"The efforts of Republican legislators to destroy the checks and balances in our constitution are bad for people and bad for our democracy," he said in the release.

The lawsuit cites previous state supreme court decisions, including McCrory v. Berger, and argues that "the Supreme Court of North Carolina reaffirmed the separation of powers as a foundational principle of our state government." McCrory v. Berger, decided in 2016, determined legislators overstepped the separation of powers under the state constitution by exerting power over executive boards.

The boards affected by this change are policymaking bodies that work under the executive to decide what laws look like in practice for state agencies, N.C. Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Caswell, Orange, Person) said.

“They're really taking away the governor's authority to manage policy,” Meyer said. "And in North Carolina, the legislature already has a lot more power than the governor.”

In a statement regarding Cooper's veto of the bill in August, N.C. Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe, Burke, McDowell), a primary sponsor of S.B. 512, said the purpose of the bill was to bring "better representation" to boards and commissions in North Carolina.

"The legislature is the elected body closest to the people of North Carolina and has the ability to recruit a qualified, diverse roster of appointees," he said.

N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) said the governor’s ability to appoint members for state boards and commissions comes with being elected by all North Carolina voters, while the legislature is made up of individuals representing districts of the state.

He said removing that kind of power and consolidating it within the legislature would lead to a "huge" imbalance. 

“And ultimately, when you have too much power cascaded into one branch of government, the people suffer,” Buansi said.

Andy Jackson, the director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation, called the conflict between Cooper and the General Assembly a "classic clash" between two branches of government. 

“And then we're going to have a third branch of government deciding the outcome of that struggle between the two, this is kind of just what the founders set up our system for in a sense," Jackson said.

S.B. 747

The lawsuit, filed by the N.C. Democratic Party in a federal district court against N.C. State Board of Elections, claims that S.B. 747 is a "direct assault" on the right to vote. 

S.B. 747 makes changes to election laws, including eliminating the three-day grace period after Election Day to accept mail-in ballots. It requires all mail-in votes to be received by the county boards of elections by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.

Furthermore, if those who do same-day registration do not have their submitted information verified on time, the ballot can be withdrawn under the legislation.

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The plaintiffs are challenging provisions in the law on same-day registration, which require additional photo identification and address verification requirements.

Paige Anderholm, a staff writer at Democracy Docket, said that because of the elimination of the three-day grace period, mail-in ballots received after the new deadline will not be counted.

“As a few state representatives have pointed out in their debates for that change of the provision, over 13,000 North Carolinians would have been disenfranchised in 2020 if that deadline had been in place,” Anderholm said.

N.C. Rep. Renée Price (D-Caswell, Orange) said the bill gives observers the power to move throughout the voting space, as well as the freedom to take pictures of voters. She said that to her, this is a form of intimidation.

“We have had enough over the years of voter intimidation — particularly if you’re African American or a person of color — and trying to go and vote and have people hovering over you, listening to your conversations and seeing what you're trying to do — that may hinder some people from actually coming out to vote,” she said.

N.C. Republican Party chair Michael Whatley congratulated the General Assembly for overriding Cooper's vetoes of what he called "common-sense legislation" in a statement last week.

"North Carolina has reason to celebrate these common sense reforms, which will make the N.C. Board of Elections a non-partisan entity and add important election integrity safeguards," Whatley said.

@DTHCityState |

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