RALEIGH – Late Wednesday night, the two Republican members of the N.C. State Board of Elections submitted their resignations.
David Black of Cabarrus County and Ken Raymond of Forsyth County both resigned from the N.C. State Board of Elections (NCSBE) following a consent agreement between the board and groups suing to loosen absentee ballot laws for the election, during which absentee by-mail voting is already underway.
The consent agreement, negotiated between NCSBE attorneys and plaintiffs represented by Washington, D.C. Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, would effectively undo many ballot safeguards and related changes put in place by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper. The legislative leaders, who intervened in the lawsuit to become defendants, were not notified on the agreement until it was made public in court filings.
A statement from the NCSBE said, “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.
In his letter, Raymond pushed back on statements from the NCSBE, and, in particular, on the attorneys acting on the board’s behalf.
“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,” said Raymond.
“Secondly, we were led to believe that refusal to make a deal that included the extension of mail-in absentee ballots, past the legal acceptance date, would also result in the elimination of the one witness requirement for residents voting absentee by mail,” Raymond said. “Additionally, we were led to believe the effective administration of the election itself rested upon a settlement. And if a judicial order were issued as voters cast their ballots, the effective administration of the election would be impossible.”
Raymond’s full letter insinuates that the board’s attorneys withheld information from the members, saying, “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.”
Black’s letter cites multiple misleading issues with both the process and the consent order itself.
“My understanding was the witness requirement would stay as it is currently with the exception that only one witness signature would be required. Not only was I taken aback by this but I am sure many county directors will be too,” said Black in his resignation letter.
Black said that he “disagreed vehemently with the one-stop requirement equation to determine the number of one-stop sites.” He also said that a memo about the minimum number of weekend voting hours at one-stop sites was “misleading” and had created confusion among the county boards.
“I can only offer that I did my best to act to reach consensus to make sensible decisions while knowing that the vote most likely would end up 3-2. These recent decisions have made it untenable for me to remain a member,” Black said.
Legislative leaders have promised to look at all options to stop enforcement of the agreement.
State Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), who co-chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said, “This legal battle will be the defining fight of the North Carolina 2020 election.”
“Every power player involved in this collusive settlement, from Gov. Cooper to Attorney General Stein to, potentially, Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherie Beasley will appear on the ballot this year. They’ve rewritten election laws while the election is actively underway. We’re witnessing a slow-motion mugging of North Carolina’s election integrity,” said Hise.
Congressman Dan Bishop who represents the ninth district weighed in with a lengthy statement.
“Clever and unethical lawyers like Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Roy Cooper have long known that collusive litigation settlements can be used to circumvent the legislature and usurp duly enacted laws. That is the trick they pulled yesterday,” Bishop said in a statement.
Bishop won the special election for the ninth congressional district which came about after a ballot harvesting operation uncovered in Bladen County overturned the previous election’s results between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready.
Harris was accused of hiring Dowless McRae to collect ballots for his campaign. While McCrae still faces charges, Harris was cleared of wrong-doing this past July.
Bishop noted in his statement that a “year after Democrats’ national lawyer Marc Elias nullified a Republican congressional election victory with a withering attack on alleged absentee ballot harvesting, he has reversed position to attack the laws against ballot harvesting.”
Elias had represented McCready during the hearings on the ninth district controversy. The absentee ballot safeguards that Elias is now trying to remove sprang from that case.
Bishop continued, firing an accusation about Stein.
“I even understand that Stein personally browbeat the non-lawyer Republican members of the Elections Board, in a closed session, to vote for the surrender,” said Bishop. “Now, if the Democrat judge approves the Democrat settlement, harvested ballots can be deposited in unmonitored drop boxes, the witness requirement can be ignored, and Democrats will have nine days beyond Election Day to ‘find’ enough votes to reverse their losses.”
The congressman closed his statement urging the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee (RNC) to intervene.
“In the strongest terms, I urge the Trump Campaign and RNC to litigate without delay this abuse of power and attack on the separation of powers,” said Bishop. “In swing states across the country, Democrats are engaged in last-minute efforts, orchestrated by Elias, to throw the election into chaos. They must know they are going to lose.”