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Cooper vetoes bill expanding possible US House election redo

December 21, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s governor followed through Friday on his plans to veto legislation that would require a complete election redo in a disputed U.S. House race should new balloting be deemed necessary due to fraud.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced in recent days he would veto the measure because of other bill language that would make future state elections board investigations of apparent criminal campaign finance violations confidential.

The state elections board currently is scrutinizing mail-in absentee ballots in the 9th Congressional District, where candidates are separated by 905 votes. The bill would require both primaries and a general election if the board decides problems are serious enough for a new election.

That could mean Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, who were on the November ballot, would have to compete for their parties’ nominations again.

Cooper said in an interview Wednesday he would have rather given the authority to the board to decide whether primaries were also warranted. But he focused his opposition to the bill on the campaign finance language that he said would shield politicians and others who break the law.

“These new provisions operate to obscure the truth rather than shine a light on it,” he said in his veto message.

The Republican-dominated General Assembly will reconvene next Thursday to consider overrides for this veto and another one Cooper issued Friday. The GOP holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers until Dec. 31.

The election-related measure also seeks to end a two-year power struggle between Cooper and GOP legislators over elections board control. The legislation would largely return elections, ethics enforcement and lobbyist reporting to how they were before Republican lawmakers changed them just before Cooper took office.

The bill also directs a revived state ethics commission, with membership likely split between Democrats and Republicans, to recommend to the new elections board whether a campaign finance probe warrants criminal prosecution. Republicans suggest this could put a check on the elections board, which will have a Democratic majority.

Cooper “is holding the Board of Elections and the (9th District) investigation hostage in his quest for complete control over the board’s investigatory authority,” Bill D’Elia, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said in an email about the veto.

Cooper said he vetoed Friday another bill, labeled a “technical corrections” measure, in part because it would harm water quality. It also reaffirms the ability of four Charlotte-area municipalities to run their own charter schools, which Cooper opposes.

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