I received notice, via email, of an emergency meeting of the N.C. State Board of Elections (SBE) this morning at 10:42 a.m. The meeting was scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Barely 30 minutes notice, this must really be an emergency, I thought!
It didn’t take long into the teleconference to learn that the Chairman of the Board called the emergency meeting because he wanted the board to write a letter to members of the legislature. The board’s chair, Andy Penry (Democrat), made a motion for the board’s general counsel, Josh Lawson, to draft a letter to the legislature. Penry characterized the letter as a “cordial request”, that the SBE’s board members and staff be given a 24-hour advance notice of proposed election legislation prior to being made public. The motion included that the board would meet again later today (another emergency meeting) to vote on whether to send the letter.
So, what’s the emergency? Penry indicated that he knew the job of the SBE members and staff was to enforce and interpret statutes and the legislature was responsible for writing them. Stacy Eggers (Republican) interjected that he believed the board’s job was to apply the law and not to create it. He also said that he didn’t want the board to overstep their role so they would ultimately come to an unanimous agreement on the motion.
Even while Penry stated (in so many words) that he didn’t want the letter or the meeting to be construed as political, it became evident that, it was all about politics. Unfortunately, the meeting may have ended up being a platform for the “bi-partisan” board to make its political opinions known.
We soon learned via the Democrats on the board that legislature had proposed a new bill that would change early voting practices in North Carolina. In this meeting you could tell the Democrats on board did not agree with the changes. (In fact, this bill seems to expand early voting, in that it would require all sites to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the days the sites are open.)
Board member, Stella Anderson (Democrat) sounded almost indignant when she asked/stated that the legislature had not asked the board for data or opinions before the rolling out the new piece of legislation. She also asked; “should they not do so?” Clearly, Anderson seemed to believe that the legislature had a duty to consult with the SBE before writing election-related laws.
Board Vice-Chair, Josh Malcolm (Democrat), chimed in and let it be known, that he too, believed the SBE should be consulted on new legislation. Malcolm suggested that Lawson should draft the letter and send it without a vote.
After Malcolm and Anderson had their say, John Lewis (Republican) asked what the emergency was that allowed the Chair to call an emergency meeting. Lewis questioned whether the meeting itself and the statements made by the Democrat board members were a way to inject the board into the public discussion.
The “Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, revealed its activist nature in this one little “emergency” meeting. The meeting makes one wonder just what the board members would do with advanced notice of new elections bills, call out the Moral Monday activist groups?
In the end, Lawson was directed to draft a letter (without a vote) and the board would reconvene later in the day to vote on whether to send it to the Legislature.
When the board voted in the subsequent meeting, the result was hardly bi-partisan. It was a 5-2 vote to send the letter. The two Republicans present for the hastily called emergency meeting, John Lewis and Stacy Eggers voted no. The other two Republicans, Ken Raymond and Jay Hemphill were not present. All four Democrats and the one “unaffiliated” board member voted in favor of sending this letter.
Here is a link to Senate Bill 325, “The Uniform and Expanded Early Voting Act” , the bill that moved the “bi-partisan” board of elections into an “emergency” meeting.
North Carolina State Board of Elections Members
Andy Penry (Democrat) Chair
Joshua Malcolm (Democrat) Vice Chair
Ken Raymond (Republican) Secretary
Stella Anderson (Democrat)
Damon Circosta (Unaffiliated 😊)
Stacy “Four” Eggers IV (Republican)
Jay Hemphill (Republican)
Valerie Johnson (Democrat)
John Lewis (Republican)