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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

Republican State Senators introduce sweeping Board of Elections overhaul

Republican Senate leader Phil Berger presides as the Senate convenes, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C.
Chris Seward/AP
FR27582 AP
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger presides as the Senate convenes, Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Raleigh.

The "No Partisan Advantage in Politics" bill marks the latest Republican-led elections legislation in two weeks.

Today, the North Carolina Senate assembly introduced a bill that would overhaul the State and County Board of Elections.

The bill, presented by Senate leader Phil Berger, eliminates Governor Roy Cooper’s ability to appoint members to both county elections boards and the State Board of Elections and gives that power to the General Assembly.

The Senate President, Speaker of the House, and minority leaders in both the House and Senate would be responsible for sending two members each to the state board.

Current state board members would be removed and replaced as soon as the bill became law. The current legislature makeup would insure a four-four Republican and Democrat split on the new board; deadlocked issues would go to the general assembly.

Current state law gives the State Board “the authority to make such reasonable rules and regulations with respect to the conduct of primaries and elections.” In the wake of the 2020 election, boards of elections across the nation received increased political scrutiny, leading to much Republican-led legislation.

The County Election Board appointment process also faces revision under the bill, although the proposed changes are still being worked out. Under current law, the State Board appoints two Republicans and two Democrats each to county boards along with one person named by the governor — but the new bill could let the legislature fill those positions and remove the governor’s appointments.

Back in 2017, Republicans passed a similar bill that would have created a nine-member state board and also removed the governor's appointment powers — but the Democratic-leaning state supreme court struck it down. The GOP now has a majority on the state’s highest court.

The bill is the latest Republican-led elections overhaul, coming just a little over a week after the filing of SB747, which proposed shortening the time for absentee ballot drop-off and implementing new photo ID rules. This round of legislation, including the new 12-week abortion ban, have all come in the wake of Representative Trisha Cotham’s party switch in April which gave the Republican a supermajority and the ability to unilaterally override Governor Cooper’s veto. Cooper called the proposal “an unconstitutional power grab”.

Berger asserted, “having a Board of Elections that is controlled by one party only sows distrust in our elections.” He expects movement on the bill soon.

James has lived in Wilmington since he was two years old and graduated from Eugene Ashley High School in 2022. He has long-held a passion for the city’s many goings-on, politics, and history. James is an avid film buff, reader, Tweeter, and amateur photographer, and you’ll likely see him in downtown Wilmington if you stand outside of Bespoke Coffee long enough. He is currently receiving his undergraduate education from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, and intends to major in Politics and International affairs.