NC county elections leader changes mind on meetings pledge

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (AP) — The chairwoman of a local North Carolina elections board says the Pledge of Allegiance will be added to future meetings after all, following backlash when a majority on the board opposed it earlier this week.

Louella Thompson, a Democrat who leads the five-member Bladen County board, said in a written statement Thursday that she decided to make the change after speaking with community members, legal experts and the local and state Democratic Party, according to news outlets. The board hasn't recited the pledge since members were seated last spring.

On Tuesday, Thompson and two other members rejected a motion backed by the board's two Republican members to add the pledge to each meeting's agenda. After the vote, a majority in the audience and others participated in an impromptu pledge. That caused Thompson to threaten to bring in law enforcement to prevent it from happening in the future, calling it a meeting disruption.

Tuesday's decision brought criticism from many, including Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who appointed Thompson to the board as chairwoman.

“The governor leads the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council of State meeting," Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said. "He doesn’t agree with the action taken and he thinks it’s a good practice to say it before a Board of Elections meeting.”

Thompson said Thursday that she had agreed to join the board after absentee voter fraud allegations arose in the 9th Congressional Disrtict race in 2018, which “cast doubt on the election processes in our county."

“It is time for the Bladen County Board of Elections to focus on the more important work of election administration and I’m hopeful this decision allows our Board to move forward in a constructive way,” she added.

The change of course wasn't enough for Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore, who wrote Cooper on Thursday urging him to demand Thompson's resignation. “Anything less condones this public disrespect of the United States and its citizens by your appointee in an official capacity.”

The State Board of Elections last month admonished the Bladen board for social media posts made by Thompson and another Democratic member that the local Republican Party leader said disparaged President Donald Trump.