Judge Delays N.C. Elections Board Law After Lawsuit Filed By Gov.-Elect Cooper

Governor-elect Roy Cooper holds a press conference to complain about efforts by Republicans to cut the power of the Governor's office during the special session of the General Assembly that is going on a few blocks away on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.
Chris Seward/The News & Observer

A judge blocked a recently-passed North Carolina law that remade its elections board system from taking effect while a lawsuit filed Friday by the Governor-elect Roy Cooper (D-NC) challenging the law proceeds, the News and Observer reported.

After a one-hearing Friday on Cooper’s emergency request to pause the law’s implementation, Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens issued an order delaying the law—which was set to be implemented on Sunday—from taking effect at least until next Thursday, when another hearing on the lawsuit has been scheduled, according to the News and Observer.

The law, passed by the legislature’s Republicans in a controversial special session after Cooper’s victory over Republican Gov. Pat McCrory (NC), would dismantle the North Carolina’s State Board of Elections and merge it with the state’s ethics board. Previously, the state’s governors were able to appoint three of the elections board’s five members from his or her own party, with members of the minority party taking the other two spots. Under the new regime, the board would be expanded from five to eight members with a bipartisan split four-to-four. In even years—which are typically election years—the board would be chaired by a Republican, while Democrats would hold the chairmanship in the odd years.

It was just one of a number of laws passed by Republicans in the special session that stripped the incoming governor of his powers.

Cooper’s lawsuit said the elections board changes was a violation of the state’s constitution.

“The General Assembly passed a bill that, among other things, radically changes the structure and composition of the executive agency responsible for administrating our state’s election laws,” the lawsuit said, according to the News and Observer. “Those changes are unconstitutional because they violate the separation of powers provisions enshrined in the North Carolina Constitution by shifting control over that agency away from the governor to the General Assembly.”

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