What if you found yourself in court, suing a big company, and you learned that seven of the 12 of the jurors worked for the same company that your were suing? Would that make you wonder if the verdict might be rigged?
How about the crooked politician who is facing charges of violating the State Government Ethics Act? Do you think he might be more likely to get away with it if a majority of the commission looking at his case were bigwig donors back when he was a backroom party boss?
Or imagine it’s election time — and at the last minute, thousands of ballots appear from nowhere. Hundreds of them, all for the same candidate, seem sketchy: felons voting, non-citizens voting, double voting, and other irregularities. It’s a highly-charged race and the margins are tight — the final outcome could come down to just a handful of votes. Wouldn’t you have more confidence in the integrity of the election process if the group of folks in charge of certifying the ballots were bipartisan?
Thanks to a new law, Senate Bill 68, North Carolina voters will now benefit from balanced, bipartisan oversight of campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics investigations.
These long-needed reforms to our democratic process combine the functions of the old partisan State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission into the new “Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.” The board will consist of eight people, all appointed by the Governor from lists of nominees submitted by both state party chairs. Additionally, all of North Carolina’s 100 county boards of elections will now enjoy co-equal bipartisan representation — and not be unfairly dominated by just one political party.
Governor Cooper vetoed the measure last week, saying in a statement that it was “an attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote.”
In response, the legislature voted to override his veto — the Senate last night and the House earlier today.
“Governor Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 68 so he could wield political influence over elections and ethics investigations in North Carolina,” remarked House Rules Chairman David Lewis. “But the House has preserved fair and consistent enforcement of campaign finance and lobbying laws by a bipartisan board the governor will appoint.”
Senate Bill 68 is the second iteration of legislation attempting to combine these two entities and to guarantee their bipartisanship. An earlier bill passed late last year, Senate Bill 4, split the power to appoint the board between the governor and the General Assembly; that provision was struck down by a three-judge panel about a month ago. The new law, which addresses the court’s concerns, gives the governor the power to appoint all eight members to the new board from a list of nominees submitted by chairmen of both the North Carolina Democrat and Republican parties.
“It is ironic that Governor Cooper lectured the legislature about pursuing ‘partisan power grabs’ when he vetoed a bill creating a bipartisan board to ensure our ethics and elections laws are enforced fairly – and for no other reason than to strengthen his own political advantage,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon. “I am confident this change – which actually answers the court’s call to let the governor make all appointments to that board – is a step in the right direction for North Carolina.”
Click here for an informative chart comparing the current State Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission to the new, combined “Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.”