On Thursday, Gerry Cohen, a former special counsel for the General Assembly, made an interesting observation on Facebook: both the Wake Democratic and Republican parties missed the deadline to nominate candidates for the county Board of Elections. And that, he wrote, means that if Governor Cooper is successful in his effort to overturn a law passed last year that reconfigured the structure of election boards, the Wake board will consist of "two Libertarians and an unaffiliated voter." (The courts have so far rejected Cooper's challenge, but he is appealing.)
Here's why: the old state law allows each party chair to nominate up to three registered voters for each county board. The state board, controlled by the governor's party, then selects the members of each county board from the nominees presented by the parties but cannot appoint more than two members of the same party to the three-person board. The law also sets a deadline; this year, June 12. The Wake GOP submitted its nominations on June 19; the Democrats on July 10.
This sluggishness would be unimportant if it weren't for two key factors: the ongoing legal battle between the governor and the legislature, and the fact that, for the first time in history, the Wake County Libertarian Party submitted nominations for the Wake County Board of Elections—and managed to do it a month early.
Cohen says he'd been following this closely because he was hoping to earn a spot on the board and was surprised that the Dems missed the deadline. And since the Libertarian nominees are the only candidates who fulfill all the requirements of the old law, they might be the only candidates available for consideration. The Libertarians, thinking ahead, also nominated an unaffiliated voter, Jon Byers, for the third spot.
If Governor Cooper's legal challenge fails, the county board would consist of two members of the political party with the most registered voters and two members of the party with the second-most registered voters—i.e., Democrats and Republicans. This would render the candidates put forward by the Libertarian party ineligible.
Brian Irving, chairman of the state Libertarian Party, wrote in an email that the structure put forward by the legislature would really just shut out third parties and independents more than they already are. Byers, the Libertarians' unaffiliated candidate, says he feels the representation of independent voters, who make up a third of all registered voters in Wake County, is an important step toward a democracy that reaches beyond party politics.
The state and Wake County Democratic Party offices did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the governor's office. The Wake GOP referred the INDY's request for comment to the state party, which did not respond.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Lose by Winning"