Friday, 15 February 2019 13:35

COLUMN: North Carolina needs independent agency to administer elections

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Letting Democrats and Republicans draw electoral districts, effectively selecting their constituents, erodes confidence in our elections. Why then do we place them solely in charge of running our elections as well?


The same parties that brought you gerrymandering also control all boards of elections. The Democratic and Republican state party chairs nominate all members of all boards. The governor appoints the state board, the state board appoints the county boards, and the governor names a chair for each. So it’s neither a secret nor a surprise whom these board members are beholden to. 

They certainly don’t represent our electorate, one-third of whom are unaffiliated. Unaffiliateds are the second-largest group in the state, outnumbering Republicans. North Carolina’s three other recognized political parties are also shut out. One in three voters has no say in the way elections are managed or who counts the votes. 

This exclusion would be unfair in any circumstance. It’s worse when you look at the trends. For years, unaffiliated and third-party voter registration has grown steadily, while major party registration has declined. 

No wonder charges of voter fraud or ballot harvesting follow just about every election. Even though Democrats and Republicans share total control over elections, neither respects the democratic process. If a Democrat wins, Republicans are sure to cry foul. If a Republican wins, the Democrats will file a lawsuit.

Just as we need an independent redistricting process, we also need an independent agency to manage and conduct elections. We should either appoint boards that represent all voters, or give responsibility for managing and conducting elections to an independent agency.

If we stick with appointed boards, expand membership proportionally by party, and include unaffiliated voters. Unaffiliated voters would apply through a separate process. Every group gets at least one member. No party gets a majority. The governor would still select the state board. The state board and governor would still populate the county boards.

The downside? Political parties are still involved, and the boards would be larger. But the upside is greater. Such a broad spectrum of representation would require compromise and consensus to get anything done.

Still, the best way to reform our election system is to remove political parties from the processes altogether. Especially since the two largest parties have proven over and over they’re unwilling, indeed incapable, of running fair elections.

Thirty-four states put a state-level official in charge of elections, usually (in 24 of them) the secretary of state. Two states entrust that power to the elected lieutenant governor. In three others the legislature appoints the position. (Source: National Conference of State Legislatures- http://bit.ly/2X6WhDM)

Only nine states have boards of elections at all. Seven states use a combination of chief election official and a board.

As we’ve seen in our most recent election, as we see every election, any of these models would be an improvement for North Carolina voters.

 

Brian Irving is the former chair of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.

 

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Last modified on Friday, 15 February 2019 16:16