Appeal Coming From North Carolina Republicans In Elections Boards Litigation

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republican legislative leaders will appeal the decision by judges that declared the GOP’s changes to how elections board members are chosen violate the state constitution while taking power from the governor.

Attorneys for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore filed their notice of appeal to the intermediate-level state Court of Appeals on Tuesday, hours after a unanimous ruling by three Superior Court judges favoring Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in his lawsuit became public.

Cooper argued successfully before the trial judges that a 2023 state law approved by the legislature that shifted appointment powers from the governor to the General Assembly interfered with his ability to ensure election and voting laws are “faithfully executed.”

By ordering portions of the law be blocked permanently, the judges kept in place current size and appointment rules for the State Board of Elections and elections boards in all 100 counties. Those rules give a great deal of appointment decision-making to the governor.

Cooper's lawyers and the judges cited state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 and 2018 that addressed appointment powers and the amount of control a governor must have over boards and commissions.

This case could ultimately reach that same court, where five of the seven current justices are registered Republicans. The recent GOP majority has ruled favorably for legislative leaders in litigation involving voter identification and redistricting. The final outcome of the lawsuit could affect who oversees elections in time for this fall's general elections.

“Our argument will be that the Supreme Court should overturn what was bad precedent,” Moore told reporters Wednesday.

Democrats were pleased with the trial judges' decision.

“In this crucial election year, I’m proud that the courts are striking down these anti-democratic bills drafted by Republicans solely to increase their own power,” state Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said in a news release Wednesday.

Another three-judge panel last month delivered a mixed ruling in a different Cooper lawsuit challenging the composition of seven boards and commissions also enacted by the General Assembly. Attorneys for Cooper, legislative leaders and state have all filed appeal notices.