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Judges block GOP law that would shift election appointments from governor to legislature

A sign shows voters where to cast ballots in Charlotte's Plaza Midwood neighborhood on May 17, 2022.
The law would shift the power to appoint members of the state Board of Elections and county elections boards from the governor to the General Assembly.

A three-judge panel of two Republicans and one Democrat said Tuesday that a North Carolina law that moves the power of appointing county and state elections officials from the governor to the legislature is unconstitutional.

Under the current system, the governor appoints the state’s elections board members as well as hundreds of county ones. The makeup of the state board — as well as the county boards — favors the political party of the governor in office.

The law, passed as Senate Bill 749, would give that appointment power to the General Assembly, which is currently controlled by Republicans. It would also create boards that would be evenly split between both political parties.

While Republicans say that would be fair, critics say it would lead to endless deadlocked votes.

Superior Court judges Edwin Wilson, Lori Hamilton and Andrew Womble had previously blocked the law from going into effect last fall. Hamilton and Womble are registered Republicans, while Wilson is a Democrat.

They wrote in their seven-page ruling that the law was “the most stark and blatant removal of appointment power from the Governor” since a previous attempt to shift appointment power away from the governor six years ago.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who had vetoed the bill, praised the decision. The legislature could appeal to the state Supreme Court, which has a Republican majority.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.