Former Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson – who’s currently a candidate for the at-large county commissioner seat – filed a complaint against the means used by Guilford County and Guilford County Schools to promote the $1.7 billion school bond referendum that voters approved in the May primary election.

On Thursday, June 30, the North Carolina State Board of Elections did the exact same thing that the Guilford County Board of Elections did a few weeks earlier with the same complaint – voted it down 3-to-2 along party lines.

Branson, a Republican, lost his appeal to the state board after the board debated the issue and listened to the evidence for about an hour and 15 minutes as part of an NC State Board of Elections meeting that addressed several other issues as well.  The board’s three Democrats voted the complaint down.

Branson’s complaint was an effort to stop the certification of the massive school bond referendum by county and state election officials.  It’s illegal in the state of North Carolina for public bodies like Guilford County or its school system to use taxpayer money or public resources to promote the passage of a bond referendum. Guilford County’s website leading up to the election portrayed the benefits of the bonds in glowing, appealing terms and downplayed the fact that the county’s taxpayers will be paying back about $2.5 billion – the $1.7 billion plus interest – for 20 years.

Branson also questioned the legality of some promotional pamphlets that pushed for passage of the bonds that he said were paid for using taxpayer funds.

Branson said after the vote that, unlike the Guilford County Board of Elections, the state board did at least look at the evidence.  He said he still can’t understand how rational people can see the way the county and schools presented the bonds and not realize the obvious attempt to push for passage using taxpayer resources.

State law does allow counties and school systems to “educate” the public about bond referendums as long as they do not promote those bonds while doing so.