NC Board of Elections chair resigns following controversial GOP complaint

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections has resigned following a complaint filed against him by the Wake County GOP.

Andy Penry, the democratic former chairman of the NC State Board of Elections, came under fire after he allegedly posted to Twitter about President Donald Trump, ultimately suggesting the board's investigation was tilted.

Wake County GOP Chairman Charles Hellwig filed a complaint Wednesday regarding the series of tweets.

RELATED: Wake County GOP files complaint against state BOE Chairman

"When he became chairman of the Board of Elections, no matter how partisan he may have been, he had a duty to act in a way that was at least let us see he was fair, neutral. Maybe he has personal opinions, that's fine. When you do the things he did, and say the things he said publicly. That just rips away our confidence in the system," Hellwig said, during a press conference at the state's GOP headquarters late Saturday afternoon.

At the time of the complaint, Penry's Twitter account was public. It has since been made private, and can only be viewed by approved followers.

The complaint included 17 pages of social media posts from Penry's account.

On Wednesday, NC GOP Communications Director Jeff Hauser noted that a Republican Haywood County election board member was removed from her post last month for social media comments targeting Democrats, a move supported by the party.

In a brief phone call Wednesday afternoon, Penry declined ABC 11's interview and statement request.

In a statement first reported by the Washington Post Saturday, Penry wrote the following:

The investigation of criminal conduct and absentee voting fraud in the 2018 Republican primary and 2018 general election in Congressional District 9 is a matter of vital importance to our democracy. The investigation should be free of attempts at distraction and obstruction so that the truth can be revealed. I will not allow myself to be used as an instrument of distraction in this investigation. In the best interest of this investigation, and completely of my own accord, I resign from the North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, effective immediately.

Penry's statement focused on the ongoing certification process regarding the election results in the 9th Congressional District. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

"We are not right now in a battle to see who is going to represent the 9th congressional district. Mark Harris is going to represent the 9th congressional district because he got more votes," said Dallas Woodhouse, the Executive Director of the NC GOP.

On Friday, the Board of Elections, a bipartisan entity, voted 7-2 to have a public hearing into alleged "numerous irregularities" and "concerted fraudulent activities" involving mail-in absentee ballots, with the bulk of attention falling on Bladen County.

Woodhouse argued there are not enough potentially affected ballots to affect the outcome of the race.

"If the standard is we can overturn any election we don't like because somebody somewhere may have done something bad, we'll never have another election. We'll never elect another person," said Woodhouse.

The Board of Elections could order a new election if they find enough problems that either altered the outcome or cast doubts on the election's fairness. If a new election is called, it would not take place until after Congress convenes in early January.

Shortly following Friday's vote, McCready released a statement, where he wrote:

I respect today's decision by the bipartisan Board of Elections to delay certification of our election results until a full investigation is completed of all credible allegations of voter fraud and irregularities. The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. Any effort to rob a person of that right should be met with the full force of justice. Today's decision takes a strong step towards ensuring that the people of the ninth District have the answers they deserve and any bad actors are held accountable.

Harris also released a statement on the Board's vote. He wrote:

Today, after meeting behind closed doors for almost three hours, the State Board of Elections not only refused to certify our election results, but again refused to provide any details to the public as to what exactly is being investigated. The SBOE also chose to move forward with a hearing on a locally-certified election result that is almost a month old, despite there being no statutorily-required formal protest in either my race or the local race. Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties. There is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race. The State Board of Elections should act immediately to certify the race while continuing to conduct their investigation. Anything else is a disservice to the people of the Ninth District. This afternoon, we have filed an intervening motion in state court to request an extension of the stay that would change the current State Board. They should be required to stay in existence and certify this election so as not to disenfranchise the voters of the Ninth District.

Woodhouse called on Governor Cooper to immediately appoint somebody to the board that would receive bipartisan support.

"I'll give you just one suggestion - former Democrat Chief Justice Burley Mitchell. That was somebody that we were in support of taking over the unaffiliated role in the Board of Elections. He is a Democrat, he has been a long loyal Democrat, but he has been a man of honor, and that is somebody that can help lead us through this situation," said Woodhouse .

Mitchell served on the state Supreme Court from 1995-1999. In 2011, Mitchell was awarded the Liberty Bell Award, presented by the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association. Outside his service on the State Supreme Court, the North Carolina Bar Association noted that Mitchell served as district attorney for Wake County, secretary of crime control and public policy, a judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and in the state attorney general's office.

"The Governor has accepted Mr. Penry's resignation and appreciates his service to our state," a spokesman for Gov. Roy Cooper said.
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