DOBSON, N.C. — In a historic win against election denialism, the State Board of Elections voted unanimously today to remove Jerry Forestieri and Timothy DeHaan from the Surry County Board of Elections effective immediately after considering a formal complaint about their abdication of duties in failing to certify local election results.
Bob Hall, a long-time voting rights activist and North Carolina voter, filed the complaint with the State Board in February outlining how Forestieri and DeHaan failed to adhere to their oaths of office when, during Surry County’s 2022 general election canvass meeting, they attempted to append to the county’s certification of election results a letter contending the election laws administered by the State Board were “illegal” and “illegitimate.”
“I hope this sends a signal to those who oversee and administer our elections in North Carolina and beyond that they have to enforce the law as it is, and not as they want it to be,” Hall said following the State Board’s decision. “County Canvass meetings are for counting ballots and certifying results, not ideological debate.”
The State Board, in its motion to remove the members, found there were no irregularities in the 2022 general election or the March 7, 2023, special election in Surry County that would have affected any outcomes in those elections, according to its press release. The county board members based their refusal to certify their elections on court and State Board decisions they disagreed with.
The State Board found Forestieri’s and DeHaan’s actions constituted “impermissible collateral attacks” on court decisions and directives from the State Board.
Hall was represented by Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, who said the State Board’s decision was a necessary step to push back against election denialism and voting law misinformation.
“In a written submission to the State Board in support of Mr. Hall’s complaint, Klein noted, “Faithful execution of the law by election officials is a keystone to our political system.” “If left unchecked,” Forestieri and DeHaan may have been the first of many board members throughout the state and across the political spectrum who “would undermine the credibility of our elections based upon their personal disagreements and own misinterpretation of the governing law they have sworn to support, maintain and defend.”
Common Cause North Carolina attended the Tuesday proceedings and had been monitoring the case as government accountability watchdogs.
“We applaud the State Board of Elections for their bipartisan and unanimous vote today,” said Tyler Daye, Policy and Civic Engagement Manager for Common Cause North Carolina. “County board of elections members must be accountable to election rules and to the public they are supposed to serve.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.