Another showdown looms as Cooper vetoes GOP election bill

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Another showdown looms as Cooper vetoes GOP election bill
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Political observers say the governor's move is aimed at sending a message to voters ahead of elections, even if the legislature overrides his veto.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's the latest veto showdown on Jones Street. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is blasting two Republican-backed election bills. Republicans have the votes to override Cooper's veto, but political watchers think the governor's move is aimed at sending a message to voters ahead of Vote 2024.

"Today, I'm vetoing Senate Bill 747 and I'll veto 749 when I get it," Cooper said in remarks released on his YouTube page.

The odds that Cooper's veto survives are "very small" according to Duke Sanford School of Public Policy professor Mac McCorkle. SB 747 passed with a veto-proof supermajority.

The bill would eliminate the three-day grace period for receiving absentee ballots; give partisan poll observers more power to watch voting; and ban the use of private money for election administration.

The governor is accusing Republicans of trying to keep college students and ethnic minorities away from voting.

"(Republicans) have done their research, and they know when and how you vote, and they know you aren't as likely to vote for them," Cooper said. "So they're making it harder for you to vote hoping that you won't bother."

Republicans reject Cooper's startling claim and said the bills increase faith in elections.

In a statement reacting to Cooper's veto, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said, "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."

McCorkle suspects a legal challenge to the bills could be coming.

"The Republicans are still allowing votes from overseas mainly meaning military, which do not have to meet this requirement to be in by Election Day. And that might be something that the federal court would look at and go, 'no, wait a second,'" McCorkle said.

Cooper called the legislation "an all-out assault on the right to vote" -- raising the question that if Republicans are all but certain to override the veto, what does the governor hope to gain by coming out so strongly against it?

"It's the overreach problem," McCorkle said. "Republicans looking like they are simply trying to grab political power. That was the problem with the anti-abortion legislation they passed. And that's what Gov. Cooper is trying to emphasize to people is the Republicans are simply going too far."

Cooper also announced he intends to veto Senate Bill 749 which would require all local election boards to have an even bipartisan split along with members appointed by the legislature rather than the governor.

That bill has not yet passed the legislature.