RALEIGH, NC — North Carolina state lawmakers who change midterm party registrations could face a snap election to keep the seat, according to a bill introduced Tuesday by Senate Democrats. in response to Rep. Tricia Cotham’s move to the GOP two months ago.
The measure would be forward-looking and would not apply to Cotham, whose decision gave Republicans an unvetoed majority in both houses of the General Assembly. He likely won’t get traction in the GOP-controlled legislature. Her altered allegiance helped Republicans pass new abortion restrictions when they were able to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on party votes.
Her change angered Democrats in Raleigh and her Mecklenburg County district where she won last fall by more than 18 percentage points. Critics say those who voted for her are denied representation. Speakers at a Tuesday press conference on the bill included Cotham voters.
The measure states that when an elected or appointed member of the General Assembly changes party registration with more than six months left in their term, the seat would be declared vacant. The special election to complete the two-year term would take place within 90 days. The bill would also require a party changer to repay recent campaign finance donations at the request of a donor.
“You can’t completely change teams, put on the other jersey and start scoring goals for the opposing team and have no recourse from voters,” Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Democrat, told reporters. of Mecklenburg County and co-sponsor of the bill. “So it’s time we made that change.”
Group switches are rare. Representative Bill Brisson of Duplin County switched from Democrats to Republicans in 2017.
Another sponsor of the bill, Guilford County Sen. Michael Garrett, said he doesn’t expect the measure to move forward any time soon “because it’s a little too close to the incident. in the county of Mecklenburg”. But he said the proposal is “good government.” It is about restoring the confidence of voters.
The bill does not identify Cotham by name, but its preamble does refer to details about Cotham’s run last November by identifying the exact number of votes cast in his election.
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