North Carolina State Board of Elections chairman Bob Cordle resigned yesterday after public outcry over a joke involving cattle sexuality he told to a conference of hundreds of local election officials on Monday, July 29. Cordle is the third state elections board chair to leave the position under fire in the past seven months.
Cooper appointee Andy Penry resigned under fire as chair of the then-named State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement last December after revelations of his partisan conduct undercut his claims of being a fair overseer of North Carolina elections. The Raleigh News & Observer pleaded with Gov. Roy Cooper to do a better job with his next pick for the board.
Alas, the N&O’s wishes were not to be. His new board chair, Josh Malcolm, quickly came under fire for his numerous contacts with Democratic Bladen County Board of Elections member Jens Lutz just before last November’s election and the subsequent resistance to disclosing those contacts until reporters threatened legal action against the state board. Lutz, a former political consulting partner of alleged ballot harvester McCrae Dowless, resigned from the Bladen County elections board in early December and Malcolm removed his name from consideration for the newly reconstituted state elections board in January.
Cordle’s resignation comes at an especially sensitive and confusing time at the NC State Board of Elections. After seeking to retain the use of touchscreen voting systems currently used in about 20 North Carolina Counties for months, the board reversed course earlier this week after being presented with evidence of security concerns of those systems. They voted 3-2 for a procedural move that would have eventually resulted in only hand-marked paper ballots being used statewide for the 2020 elections. Just one day later, the board reverse course again after one board member announced that he wanted to change his vote. The board announced yesterday that they would meet on Thursday, August 1 to certify systems for the 2020 election that include touchscreen voting.
With Cordle, who favored certifying touchscreen systems, gone, the board is deadlocked 2-2 over certification. This means that Gov. Cooper must move quickly to name a replacement for Cordle. It also means that Cooper essentially has an opportunity to influence which election systems will used in North Carolina for the 2020 election.
For the sake of North Carolina voters, let’s hope Gov. Cooper does a better job of picking the next NC State Board of Elections chair this time than he has done on his previous three attempts.
Update: State Senator Ralph Hise (R-McDowell) and State Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett) have recommended that Gov. Cooper appoint Gerry Cohen, a former NC General Assembly staffer who is currently a Democratic member of the Wake County Board of Elections, to replace Bob Cordle. Cohen would make an excellent choice.