North Carolina Court Strikes Down New Election Law That Would Strip Power From Democratic Governor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A unanimous panel of three North Carolina judges this morning sided with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), striking down a new Republican-sponsored “power grab” law that would have removed the governor’s authority to make appointments to the state board of elections and instead granted it to the GOP-controlled Legislature. 

In addition to stripping Cooper’s appointment power, the law would have required state and county boards of elections to have an even number of Democratic and Republican-appointed members, increasing the potential for deadlock. The now-struck down law departed from the current structure that allows a majority of state and county board members — three out of five — to be from the governor’s political party.

The law would have also given the Legislature the final say on appointing leadership positions to state and county boards of elections if board members were unable to reach a decision and also prevented the governor from removing members from state and county boards for any reason.   

The North Carolina State Board of Elections oversees election administration and works in conjunction with the state’s 100 county boards of elections that are engaged in conducting local elections, preparing ballots, operating voting sites and more. 

Prior to today’s ruling permanently blocking the “power grab” law from taking effect, the legislation remained temporarily blocked due to a decision from the same three-judge panel, which granted Cooper’s request for a preliminary injunction in late November 2023. 

The panel — consisting of two Republicans and one Democratic judge — today held that the law “infringes upon the Governor’s constitutional duties” and is a “stark and blatant removal of appointment power from the Governor” that “must be permanently blocked.” 

Today’s ruling is not the first time that North Carolina courts have found Republicans’ power-grabbing attempts unconstitutional. Back in 2017, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of Cooper who filed a similar lawsuit seeking to thwart an earlier attempt by Republicans to restructure North Carolina election boards.

A vast majority of North Carolina voters have also opposed such efforts, voting in 2018 to soundly reject a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overhauled the structure of state and county election boards and transferred appointment power to the Legislature. 

In response to today’s ruling, Cooper said in a statement that “Republican leaders should stop their efforts to control the ballot box and sow chaos before the November elections. Bipartisan courts and voters have repeatedly rejected these clearly unconstitutional attempts to seize control of elections.” 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.