WHATLEY: State Board of Elections making yet another shady backroom deal

Every American ought to agree that we need free, fair, and transparent elections. Our great democracy only works if there is widespread public faith in the legitimacy and reliability of our electoral process. Unfortunately, here in North Carolina, the State Board of Elections is engaged in yet another partisan attempt to threaten the transparency of our state’s elections. In the process, the State Board is also trying to subvert the decisions of our elected officials.

Here’s the backstory. Under North Carolina state law–as written and passed by our elected representatives at the North Carolina General Assembly–both Republicans and Democrats can send two election observers to each poll location throughout the Tar Heel State on election days. Given that the polls are open for 13 hours on primary and election days, the law allows for new poll-watchers every four hours. That’s a total of eight poll-watchers from each party at a given polling location. This is a simple, common-sense, bipartisan election safeguard that benefits Republicans and Democrats alike. And yet the State Board of Elections recently proposed destructive changes to this policy, sharply cutting the regulation to allow only two poll watchers over the course of an entire election day.

North Carolinians from both sides of the aisle have a shared interest in preserving this basic election safeguard. What argument could there possibly be against making sure that our elections operate in a transparent, lawful way? It’s not as if this law gives either party a partisan leg up. Let this sink in: your State Board of Elections is actively working to make North Carolina elections less transparent. Making it harder for bipartisan volunteers to monitor the integrity of your ballot benefits absolutely no one, least of all the Tar Heel State’s voters.

Unfortunately, this is part of a broader pattern of behavior from the appointed officials at the State Board of Elections. You might recall that just weeks before November’s Presidential election, the Board of Elections colluded with statewide Democrats Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to make a shady backroom deal aimed at weakening our election safeguards. That’s right: Cooper, Stein, and the same officials we’re discussing today got rid of the absentee ballot witness signature requirement, a decision which was blasted by a federal judge. They did this a week after early voting was underway. Hundreds of thousands of votes had already been cast.

The kicker? Their backroom dealing also provided for unmonitored ballot drop boxes. That was November. Now, in March, they are trying to get rid of monitors for in-person voting, too. This is a disturbing pattern that should concern Republicans and Democrats alike.

Crucially, these are partisan officials appointed by Roy Cooper. When they make one of their partisan changes to the electoral process, they are doing so in contravention of laws passed by your local representatives. By extension, the State Board of Elections is subverting your voice in the democratic process and putting forth an inherently illegal proposal. They are making our elections less transparent with reforms so unpopular that they have to challenge settled law to do it.

There is nothing free, fair, or transparent about that. In the face of repeated attacks on our electoral process, the North Carolina Republican Party and the Republican National Committee will always stand firm for election security. An unelected, Democrat-controlled board has no right to undermine the integrity of your vote.

Michael Whatley is Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.