GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper pounded down his veto stamp again on Thursday morning with an unsurprising announcement that he is vetoing Senate Bill 747, the first of two major elections bills moving through the General Assembly.

Although it’s unlikely that this veto would stand – Republican lawmakers have overridden about 14 vetoes during this session, including six just last week – we won’t know immediately. The seldom-meeting General Assembly won’t reconvene again until Monday and has scheduled no voting sessions.


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North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper holds up his veto stamp. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) did say on Thursday morning that there was a “20-80” chance that his chamber could hold a vote on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 but said it was “more likely Sept. 5,” citing Labor Day travel plans by members. He didn’t mention the veto but would only schedule votes when he was sure of who would be attending.

A spokesperson for Sen. Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said the Senate likely would reconvene in mid-September to consider the budget and “any other outstanding matters, including conference reports, concurrence votes, and veto overrides.”

The Senate would get the first vote on the override, which, if approved, would advance to the House.

Cooper was undaunted about the bad results he has had with vetoes since Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg) switched parties and gave the GOP supermajorities in both chambers, meaning their scant 3/5ths required margin will hold if everyone shows up to vote.

Cooper, in announcing his veto of SB 747, played one additional card, saying he also would veto Senate Bill 749 – the accompanying bill awaiting a vote in the House – should it reach his desk. It’s unclear where that bill, which also addresses elections, stands because the chambers have had only one very busy voting day in nearly two months as they have tried to negotiate a state budget.

Cooper also later Thursday announced he was vetoing SB 512, the “Greater Accountability for Boards/Commissions” bill, which limits his abilities to name people to those oversight groups, and he signed four other bills.

The Senate passed SB 747 and SB 749 along party-line votes on June 21, but the House last week doubled SB 747 in size and scope and rushed it through two committees to set up the back-and-forth approval between the two chambers.

Democrats in the House tried numerous amendments, but each failed before the bill advanced back to the Senate for concurrence. Both chambers voted along party lines as well.

SB 747 in short changes early voting procedures, eliminates the 3-day grace period for mail-in ballots, requires more poll workers for early-voting sites, gives more leeway to observers, sets up tighter policing for voter rolls and requires more personnel to work at precincts.

“This legislation has nothing to do with election security and everything to do with Republicans keeping and gaining power,” Cooper said in announcing his veto. “It requires valid votes to be tossed out unnecessarily, schemes to restrict early voting and absentee ballots, encourages voter intimidation and attempts to give Republican legislators the authority to decide contested election results.”

Cooper notes that lawmakers used advice from attorney Cleta Mitchell, who worked with attorney John Eastman as part of the effort in Georgia in which former President Donald Trump, Eastman and 17 others have been indicted for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Republicans have denied that Michell played a role in drafting the bill, although some have admitted to meeting with her.

‘A number of bad ideas’

Cooper’s statement calls the bill “a blatant scheme to further entrench Republicans’ power by making voting harder for young and nonwhite voters who tend to vote more often for Democrats.” Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg), during debate of the bill, said it “likely violates the Disability Act and the Voting Rights Act.”

Cooper also notes that SB 747 shortens the time absentee ballots can be accepted to 7:30 p.m. on election day, requires an untested signature match in certain counties (under a pilot program), makes it easier to toss absentee ballots, expands the role of poll observers that election board members don’t want and fails to fund elections fully.

District 54 Rep. Robert Reives (D-Randolph)

He did not mention a point made during debate by Rep. Robert Reives II (D-Randolph), the House minority leader, who said that although the bill does not specifically reduce the number of days for early voting – as many Republicans want despite the popularity of early voting with the public – it could have that effect because of requirements for judges and poll works on early voting days.

“If you can’t find people, they can’t have early voting,” Reives said. “We can’t pretend we don’t know the practical effect. There are no appropriations. Not one dime. And we’re going to add all of this? Good luck.”

Chairman Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) released the following statement on Gov. Cooper’s intent to veto Senate Bill 747

State Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe) (NCGA)

Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe), one of the architects of the bill issued a statement to decry Cooper’s veto plans and to promise there would be an override.

“When North Carolina voters vote, democracy wins. That’s why we are creating a secure election system that makes it easy to vote and protects election integrity,” Daniel said. “But Gov. Cooper wants his handpicked partisans running our elections, and he apparently feels threatened by North Carolinians observing what happens in their polling places.

“North Carolina is not a third-world dictatorship, no matter how hard Gov. Cooper tries to make it one. We have an open democracy. By overriding this veto, we’ll guarantee every citizen’s right to vote with confidence in the security of our elections.”

Equally unsurprising is that Common Cause North Carolina, a voting rights group, supported Cooper’s veto.

“Senate Bill 747 is filled with a number of bad ideas that would undermine North Carolinians’ freedom to vote,” Executive Director Bob Phillips said in a statement. “We applaud Governor Cooper for vetoing this unnecessary and damaging bill. We call on the legislature to uphold this veto and stop attacking our voting rights.”

Moore said later Thursday that “Gov. Cooper is mischaracterizing a bill that simply strengthens election integrity in North Carolina. It’s unfortunate that he would rather score political points by crying ‘racism’ than be honest about the balanced, common-sense election reforms passed in the House and Senate. I anticipate the House will swiftly override his veto.”

About SB 749

Although SB 749 – titled “No Partisan Advantage in Elections” – has not advanced through the House committee process, Cooper made it clear that he won’t accept its restructuring of the boards that manage elections.

The bill would change the makeup of state and county boards of election by removing appointments by the governor, with even numbers of members appointed equally by both chambers and both parties.

Sen. Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) has said the bill “is this General Assembly’s attempt to control elections. This attempt has been rejected by courts and soundly rejected by voters in the state. It puts us Raleigh politicians in charge of local boards of elections.”

Cooper’s statement offered an example that, should the proposed 4-4 NC Board of Elections deadlock on a county’s early voting plan, “then the plan reverts to just one early voting site in that county. That will result in long waits for the increasing number of North Carolinians who vote early.”

SB 512 and other bills

The issue with Senate Bill 512 is that it treads on ground that previously was litigated in a lawsuit brought by former Gov. Pat McCrory because he felt that the General Assembly was reaching for too much power over agencies constitutionally aligned with the Executive branch of state government. In 2016, the courts found that the law passed by the General Assembly violated the separation of powers.

“This legislation will hurt the effective and efficient use of taxpayer money by impairing the Governor’s constitutionally required duty to execute the laws passed by the legislature,” Cooper said in issuing the veto. “The bill interrupts the critical work of boards and commissions to protect public health, provide clean air and water, recruit new jobs, lower electric bills and more.

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“Fundamentally it violates the separation of powers enshrined in the state Constitution. The courts have consistently rejected these legislative power grabs in McCrory v. Berger and other cases. Legislative efforts to seize executive power are unconstitutional and damage vital state work.”

Daniel also responded to this veto by challenging the appointments Cooper has made to boards and commissions that he said showed “no regard for the diverse makeup of our state. The legislature is the elected body closest to the people of North Carolina and has the ability to recruit a qualified, diverse roster of appointees. Senate Bill 512 balances appointment power between the legislative and executive branches and brings better representation to North Carolina’s boards and commissions.”

The four bills that Cooper signed were: