Cooper vetoes bill barring donations to run elections

Published 11:29 pm Thursday, December 9, 2021

By Gary D. Robertson

Associated Press

RALEIGH — Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Republican legislation Thursday that would bar North Carolina election boards and officials in counties from accepting private money to run elections.

The bill, one of several election-related measures pushed by GOP legislators this year, responded to the funds distributed nationwide — including millions of dollars to North Carolina — by outside groups to administer the 2020 elections, particularly to address COVID-19-related challenges.

GOP bill sponsors said outside donations to government agencies create the impression of undue influence in elections. They point out that some nationwide grant distributors received large donations from Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, and his wife.

But Cooper said in a statement that nonprofit and nonpartisan grants provided masks, pens and other protective equipment “so voters stayed safe during the pandemic.”

“The legislature should start properly funding elections boards to ensure accessible, safe, and secure elections every time, which would end the need for grants,” he added.

North Carolina received at least $4.7 million from the Center for Tech & Civic Life and the Center for Election Innovation & Research. It was used to purchase pens for voters at the polls, provide bonuses to workers at early voting sites and send mailers about voting procedures, according to the State Board of Elections. Another 10 counties also got monetary help from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute to run polling sites, the state board said.

The bill now returns to the General Assembly, which after today won’t reconvene to Raleigh until Dec. 30, when veto override attempts are possible. But it’s unlikely GOP bill authors would be successful. The bill was approved along party lines, and Republican majorities are not veto proof.

None of Cooper’s vetoes this year have been overturned.

Also Thursday, Cooper signed a measure portrayed as an anti-corruption law within local governments. The bill in part creates a new felony when a local elected official asks for or receives financial benefits from the public body the person represents.

The governor also vetoed a bill  that would keep local governments from barring a type of energy service based on the fuel type — such as natural gas. And he vetoed a bill that would give car dealers more leeway to sell salvaged vehicles.