Saturday, March 18, 2017

NC Court Rejects Law Changing NC BOE

A Three-Judge North Carolina State Court unanimous held that North Carolina’s attempt to change the nature of Election Boards (BOE) in the State to help favor Republicans Violates the State Constitution. It is a big Win for Voting Rights.

The Republican North Carolina Legislature, facing a new Democratic Governor, attempted to change the Election Laws for Partisan reason.

Under the Existing Law, the Governor would have been able to have a Majority on both the State Election Board and County Boards. These Boards had broken down on Party Lines on Sssues such as how much Early Voting to set, as noted in the court’s Opinion. The New Plan would have taken the Elections Board, broken it up into a separate Elections and Ethics Board, giving the Legislature the Power to appoint a number of the Members, required that the Members be equally divided among Parties, given Republicans control of the Boards in Even-Numbered, Presidential and Congressional Election years, and required that it would take a Majority to do anything on the Board. In the event of a Partisan Deadlock, default rules would kick in that would benefit Republicans, such as One Early Voting site per County, and only during Business hours.

The Court held that this power grab violated three Provisions of the North Carolina State Constitution:

- The Separation of Powers Clause
- The Executive Powers Clause
- The Faithful Execution Clause.

The unanimous Court relied heavily on an earlier Case involving taking Powers away from the former Governor, Pat McCrory.

Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog writes:

The Case can be Appealed, but the State Supreme Court has a new Democratic Majority, to the extent this issue breaks on Party lines, but it may not break along these lines.

Another question is whether the Legislature, with a Veto-Proof Majority, could make other changes to Election Rules which could undermine the Governor or the Elections Board’s powers without running afoul of the State Constitution.

One thing the Legislature could do is something like cutting back directly on Early Voting through a State Statute, something which would not require the action of the Elections Board. The Legislature could try that, but it would immediately be challenged in Federal Court as a Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitutional violation. And given the earlier findings in the North Carolina Voting Case that the Legislature acted with Racially Discriminatory intent (a ruling that the Supreme Court will soon decide whether to take up), it seems like a risky move. Indeed it is a move that could put North Carolina back under Federal Supervision of its voting rules.

CLICK HERE to read the 43-page (PDF) Decision.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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