The Guilford County Board of Elections is back in business and has two new members, giving it a total of four. The board members intend to hit the ground running because they have a lot of running to do – running the local 2018 election, that is.
On Tuesday, March 27, the brand new Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement appointed two new members to Guilford County’s election board: Republican Eugene Lester, an attorney who sits on the Greensboro Zoning Commission, and Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, a Democrat who currently serves as president of the North Carolina NAACP.
The Guilford County Board of Elections, which has been unable to meet for the past month because the board with four seats only had two members, will meet at 2 p.m., Thursday, March 29 to seat Lester and Spearmen and elect a chairman. The two new members join current members Jim Kimel, a Democrat, and Kathryn Lindley, a Republican who currently chairs the board.
When the state board met on Tuesday, it named new board members to county boards across the state so that every county board would have full membership.
In 2017, legislation by the North Carolina General Assembly restructured the state and county elections boards – a change that was supposed to go into effect last summer. However, legal challenges to the new structure by Gov. Roy Cooper, and Cooper’s refusal to appoint new members to that board, created a stalemate that resulted in North Carolina having no members on its elections board – one that also now serves as the board overseeing the ethics of the actions of state legislators, their staff members and others.
That stalemate lasted until two weeks ago, when Cooper appointed members to a newly tweaked nine-member state joint ethics and elections board that has four Democrats, four Republicans and one member who isn’t in either of those parties.
Before the new state board met this week and appointed new members to county boards, there were 25 elections boards in the state that had only two members. The two-member local boards – such as Guilford County’s –couldn’t meet or deliberate since they didn’t have enough members to form a quorum, and a court order that had allowed them to operate was no longer in effect. Election officials in those counties were especially pleased this week to see the logjam ending and new members being appointed by the state board.
Lester, who graduated from Wake Forest School of Law and has been in private practice for about 20 years, said immediately after being named to the board that he was excited about the opportunity to serve on the elections board.
Lester said he had been nominated at the local level months and months ago, before the long court battle, and on Tuesday afternoon he got the call notifying him that he’d been appointed to the board.
He said that in recent years he’d had a real desire to engage in public service and he began serving on the city’s zoning commission. He said he looks forward to serving on the elections board and working with Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt.
“Charlie does a good job,” Lester said.
Lester said elections boards are central for maintaining the integrity of elections.
“We have a fantastic democratic process in the US and it needs to be preserved,” he said.
Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen, who last year spoke to the county’s Democratic Party in favor of Spearman’s appointment to the elections board, said he’s very glad to see Spearman finally get named.
“I think he’ll do a good job,” Thigpen said. “I feel good about the Democrats’ pick. He’s very passionate about seeing no voter suppression and he is for voting machines everywhere.”
Lindley said the Thursday afternoon meeting of the Guilford County elections board was arranged quickly since the state board required the new local boards to meet no later than Monday, April 2. She said, with the holiday weekend coming up, Thursday was about the only time to do it.
Lindley said the board now has a lot of business to address in April, including some challenges to the residency claims of several candidates.