Brunswick Co. commissioners approve resolution opposing private money in elections, director responds

The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution that would oppose private...
The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution that would oppose private money elections at its regular meeting on Monday, March 20.(WECT)
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 6:58 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution that would oppose private money in elections at its regular meeting on Monday, March 20.

The document mentions Brunswick County Board of Elections’ role in the U.S., Alliance for Election Excellence, wherein the resolution states the organization was funded partly by tech billionaires, including Mark Zuckerberg.

According to the resolution, commissioners have previously received requests for the board to force the Brunswick Co. Board of Elections to withdraw its membership from the Alliance. The County Attorney determined, however, that the board of elections is an independent entity and, because the Brunswick Co. government is not part of the agreement, cannot terminate the agreement between the two.

“The integrity of our elections is fundamental to the survival of our republic, and the influence of private money from groups with partisan motives on either side of the aisle is concerning,” said Commissioner Frank Williams, who authored the item. “Adhering to the proper role of government is also a fundamental tenet of a properly functioning free society, and it is important for our board to adhere to our role under State law. This resolution clearly states our concern over the use of private money in elections, offers solutions rather than just criticism, and supports our legislators in their efforts to prohibit the use of private funds in North Carolina’s elections.”

With the resolution adopted, the board has directed county staff to work with the director of the board of elections to find suitable alternatives to the Alliance, including “reasonable membership dues and travel expenses in the Brunswick County Board of Elections’ budget to cover the elections director’s participation in a suitable alternative organization.”

During its meeting on Tuesday, the Board of Elections voted 4-1 in-favor of tabling any decision about the future of the county’s membership with the alliance until they can be presented with more information at its next meeting on April 18.

Brunswick County Elections Director Sara LaVere says the goal of working with the alliance is to learn ways to improve the elections process.

“The initial thought when we joined the alliance was [that] this is an opportunity to meet experts in the field of elections,” LaVere said. “Most of the people that work with these partner organizations used to actually serve in local elections offices, so they kind of have an idea of the things we might need.”

Williams says he is worried about the alliance’s ties to partisan funding sources, though he is not certain there are any.

“I think the fact that there has been such controversy over this organization nationwide, you know, whether the controversy is warranted or not, time will tell, but it is out there,” said Williams. “And I want our election staff to be able to focus on doing their job and not dealing with this.”

LaVere says she has seen no evidence of partisan motives in her work with the alliance.

“I think its necessary for me to improve, for me to get better, for me to learn new ways and new ideas and things that I should think about,” LaVere said. “Because we might run good elections and people might have confidence in what we do, but I think we can always do better.”

The commissioners’ resolution would also prohibit private money from influencing elections, including Senate Bill 89, and encourage the NC General Assembly to appropriate funds to provide election directors training and opportunities to network from a non-partisan source.

The resolution can be read in full below: