Last night, I wrote how it was incredible that the State Board of Elections (SBE) appointed SBE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell to negotiate a settlement to a lawsuit on absentee ballots and other election rules since she has publicly demonstrated that she shares many of the objectives of Marc Elias, the attorney for the plaintiffs, to weaken anti-election fraud protections.
Now we know why the state board did it; they (or at least the Republican members of the board) were misled.
“I am submitting my resignation to the State Board of Elections effective immediately.”
One day after the settlement agreement (which has not yet been approved by the court) was announced, both Republican members of the state board announced their resignations. There was a common theme to their resignations; they were misled by Attorney General Josh Stein and SBE staff.
In his resignation letter, former board member David Black noted several instances in which he and others were misled:
- On the agreement in the proposed settlement to effectively accept ballots with no witnesses: “It was not my understanding that the cure would simply mean an affidavit, or cure document, would be sent to the voter for a confirmation that this ballot was their own.”
- On the likelihood of state losing the lawsuit: “Many of the new rules for the elections this year have been brought about by lawsuits filed against the NCBOE and the opinion from the NC Attorney General’s Office that the likelihood of prevailing in court would be slim.” (We will see the problem with Stein’s assertion below.)
- On misleading county board members into believing that Sunday early voting hours were required: “It was also misleading by the agency to send out a memo requiring the weekend hours at one-stop sites requiring a minimum of 10 hours for the one-stop sites to be open.”
For his part, former board member Ken Raymond laid the blame for the misinformation he received about a proposed settlement squarely at the feet of the attorney general’s office:
Regarding the settlement agreement with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans against the State Board of Elections, attorneys from AG Josh Stein’s office did not advise us of the fact that a lot of the concessions made in the settlement have already been denied in a prior case by a federal judge and another case by a state court three-judge panel.
Raymond finished his letter bluntly stating why the conduct he witnessed is a problem: “It is impossible to have true bipartisanship when both sides of the political aisle do not have the important and vital information needed to make the right decisions.“
What did the attorney general and elections staff tell state board members?
In response to the resignations, the SBE office issued a terse statement in which they stated that they appreciate Black’s and Raymond’s service. They then went into defense mode:
The unanimous agreement of the five-member State Board regarding the proposed settlement came after counsel to all board members from agency attorneys and litigation counsel before and during last week’s closed session meeting. The agency’s legal staff, who are civil servants, provide thorough legal memos to the board prior to every board meeting and answer any questions board members have about matters that come before the board.
This statement raises more questions than it answers. What did SBE and attorney general staff tell the board members before and during that closed meeting? What was in those memos? How did they answer questions from board members? How could not one, but two members of the board believe that they were misled?
Given the very public fallout from that closed State Board of Elections meeting, the Attorney General’s office and the State Board of Elections cannot justify continuing to hide what happened in that meeting from the public.
It could be that Black and Raymond have offered the first two of what will be a string of resignations.