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Political notebook: Lawsuit keeps board of elections composition unchanged

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Traditionally, when the governor’s office changes hands between Republicans and Democrats, local boards of elections follow suit.

But that’s not the case in 2017.

A measure passed in late 2016 by the N.C. General Assembly changed state law to evenly split the balance of power on local elections boards — two Republicans and two Democrats. The passage of the law came shortly after the election of Gov. Roy Cooper.

Previously, every board of elections in the state would be composed of two people from the governor’s party and one from the other major party.

As if nothing had changed, the Rowan County Board of Elections currently consists of two Republicans — Chairman Dave Collins and member Gus Andrews — and one Democrat — John Hudson.

The current composition is a result of an ongoing lawsuit between Cooper and leaders of the N.C. General Assembly. Oral arguments in the suit are scheduled to occur later this month in the N.C. Supreme Court, according to court documents. Meanwhile, new appointments haven’t been made.

When asked, Collins said he’s not bothered by serving a longer-than-expected term on the Rowan County Board of Elections. He said the board can still conduct needed business. Collins said he plans to serve until he’s replaced.

In some counties, there’s effectively no elections board because members cannot meet a quorum — three of four members. At least 12 counties only have two members because of a resignation, the News and Observer wrote in July. For Carteret County, the News and Observer wrote, challenges to local decisions would go to the N.C. Court of Appeals instead of the State Board of Elections.

If the lawsuit between Cooper and General Assembly leaders isn’t resolved by November, Rowan County’s municipal elections will be overseen by the same board of elections members who served during the 2016 election.

Cooper’s approval rating better than predecessors

The governor’s approval rating is off to a good start, voters are unsure whether former Gov. Pat McCrory should run in 2020 and a plurality of voters support the Affordable Care Act, according to a poll released last week.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, surveyed 657 voters on a wide range of topics. Its findings included that Cooper’s approval rating at this point in his tenure is better than that of his immediate predecessors.

About 48 percent of voters approve of the job Cooper is doing in his first seven months in office. At the same time, McCrory had a 39 percent approval rating and former Gov. Bev Perdue had a 27 percent approval rating, the poll found.

In its survey, Public Policy Polling also found that Cooper’s approval rating is 22 percent among Republicans. That’s “well ahead of the curve,” the poll found.

Meanwhile, voters are almost evenly divided on a Cooper-McCrory rematch in 2020. Public Policy Polling found that 41 percent of voters think McCrory should run for governor again in 2020 and 44 percent think he should not.

The poll also looked at some national issues, including health care.

Public Policy Polling found that 47 percent of voters in North Carolina support the Affordable Care Act. That’s compared to 38 percent who oppose it. In a summary of its results, the polling organization said efforts to repeal the bill have made it more popular.

In other results, the left-leaning Public Policy Polling found the following: Democrats have a 46-40 lead on a generic ballot for state legislature races, more Democrats than Republicans say they’re excited to vote in 2018 and more voters disapprove of President Donald Trump than approve of his performance.

The poll has a 3.8 percent margin of error. The largest portion of those surveyed for the poll — 41 percent — identified as Democrats, 33 percent identified as Republicans and 26 percent identified as independents.

 Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.


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