The State Board of Elections on Tuesday voted unanimously to remove Jerry Forestieri and Timothy DeHaan from the Surry County Board of Elections. These county board members recently refused to certify their local elections. The removals are effective immediately.
The decision came during a State Board hearing at the Surry County Courthouse in Dobson. The Board found that the actions of the two county board members not to certify recent elections and statements made by them violated their duties as county board members to comply with laws as they exist.
A full video of the hearing -- in three parts -- is available on the State Board's meeting website.
The 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. The county board members based their refusal to certify their elections on court and State Board decisions that they disagreed with. The State Board found that their actions constituted “impermissible collateral attacks” on court decisions and directives from the State Board.
“Those who administer elections must follow the law as it is written, not how they want it to be,” said State Board Chairman Damon Circosta.
On November 28, 2022, Orange County resident Bob Hall filed complaints with the State Board seeking the removal of DeHaan and Forestieri. The two board members, in a written statement after the 2022 general election, criticized a federal judge's order pertaining to certain types of voter challenges. Election administrators do not have the authority to decline to implement court orders or State Board directives issues to implement court orders.
Under state law, the State Board may remove any county board of elections member “for incompetency, neglect or failure to perform duties, fraud, or for any other satisfactory cause.” [N.C.G.S. § 163-22(c)].
The hearing originally was scheduled for February 14 in Raleigh. That day, the State Board agreed to hold the Surry County after the Surry Board members raised an objection to holding the hearing outside of Surry County.