(See updates below.)
Things continue to go amiss at the Bladen County Board of Elections (BOE).
Just a few months ago the NC State Board of Elections voted along party lines NOT to hold hearings to investigate complaints that two Bladen County BOE members on charges that they violated a state law requiring that they remain neutral regarding candidates for public office. Here is a statement from Bladen County BOE member Patricia Sheppard that the state board indicated was not in violation:
I have not decided who I will support in 2020, but it will not be a racist, sexist, lying, adulterous, sexually deviant moron like Trump.
Now the Bladen County BOE has given us some more wacky hijinks. First, the board voted not to include the Pledge of Allegiance from the agenda of their public meetings. The vote was along party lines, with Democratic Chairwoman Louella Thompson and fellow Democrats Deborah Belle and Sheppard voting to exclude. Republicans Emery White and Michael Aycock voted for including the Pledge.
Being patriotic citizens, a majority of the people at the meeting later stood and said an impromptu Pledge of Allegiance. That was enough to trigger Thompson, who said the police would be on hand to enforce the ban on the Pledge at future meetings (Bladen Journal):
Chairwoman Louella Thompson said she’ll have law enforcement present to take action if anyone stands to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the next meeting of the Bladen County Board of Elections.
Her comments were delivered at the end of a one-hour meeting that included an impromptu pledge from the majority of the audience after the board voted along party lines not to include it in the meeting’s agenda. She said the action by the audience was a disruption of the meeting, and would not be tolerated in the future, adding lawmen would be brought in.
Like all county boards of elections chairs, Thompson was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper. Perhaps Gov. Cooper should give Thompson a call to remind her that banning citizens from saying the Pledge of Allegiance at public meetings is not acceptable and that it is time for the buffoonery at the Bladen County BOE to stop.
According to the Bladen County Board of Elections’s webpage, they meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 5:00 PM at 301 S. Cypress Street in Elizabethtown.
I expect that they will have a full house at their next meeting.
Update: Charlotte Smith with Bladen Online recorded the part of the meeting that was open to the public. The vote on excluding the Pledge of Allegiance starts at the 4:26 mark. Public statements on the pledge follow and the spontaneous stating of the pledge starts at the 16:25 mark. Thompson’s threat to call the police on anyone stating the Pledge at future meetings is at the 42:15 mark.
Here is a link to Bladen Online.
Update 2: Gov. Cooper’s office gave the following statement to the Bladen Journal: “The Governor leads the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council of State meeting. 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.” Hopefully he communicated that directly with Thompson.
Update 3: The chair of the Bladen County Board of Elections has backed down; they will include the Pledge in future meetings.