NC Gov. Cooper vetoes bill barring donations to run elections
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Republican legislation Thursday that would bar North Carolina election boards and officials in counties from accepting private money to run elections.
The bill, one of several election-related measures pushed by GOP legislators this year, responded to the funds distributed nationwide — including millions of dollars to North Carolina — by outside groups to administer the 2020 elections, particularly to address COVID-19-related challenges.
GOP bill sponsors said outside donations to government agencies create the impression of undue influence in elections. They point out that some nationwide grant distributors received large donations from Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, and his wife.
But Cooper said in a statement that nonprofit and nonpartisan grants provided masks, pens and other protective equipment “so voters stayed safe during the pandemic.”
"The legislature should start properly funding elections boards to ensure accessible, safe, and secure elections every time, which would end the need for grants,” he added.
North Carolina received at least $4.7 million from the Center for Tech & Civic Life and the Center for Election Innovation & Research. It was used to purchase pens for voters at the polls, provide bonuses to workers at early voting sites and send mailers about voting procedures, according to the State Board of Elections. Another 10 counties also got monetary help from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute to run polling sites, the state board said.
The bill now returns to the General Assembly, which after Friday won't reconvene to Raleigh until Dec. 30, when veto override attempts are possible. But it's unlikely GOP bill authors would be successful. The bill was approved along party lines, and Republican majorities are not veto proof.
None of Cooper's vetoes this year have been overturned. He vetoed another election bill last week that would prohibit the counting of mail-in absentee ballots received after Election Day, even if their envelopes were postmarked on or before that date. Current law provides a three-day grace period after Election Day for envelopes to arrive by mail.
Republicans contend the election bills would improve voter confidence in elections, but Democrats counter that they are designed to reinforce an unfounded narrative from national Republicans and former President Donald Trump that voter fraud was present last year.
Also Thursday, Cooper signed a measure portrayed as an anti-corruption law within local governments.
The bill in part creates a new felony when a local elected official asks for or receives financial benefits from the public body the person represents. Some legislators criticized the bill, accusing the authors of unfairly targeting a Rocky Mount council member who was subject of a stinging audit and his utility bill. Another bill Cooper signed Thursday would direct the state program providing rent and utility assistance to low-income renters struggling due to COVID-19 to accept grant applications from landlords.
The governor also vetoed a bill that would keep local governments from barring a type of energy service based on the fuel type — such as natural gas, for example. And he vetoed a bill that would give car dealers more leeway to sell salvaged vehicles without an inspection under certain conditions. Cooper said the bill would have removed a layer of protection for consumers.