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NC elections head steps down as 2016 election cycle revs up

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The head of North Carolina’s statewide elections board is resigning just as the 2016 election cycle starts with candidates filing for ballot places next month, he said Tuesday.

State Board of Elections Chairman Josh Howard said he is stepping down for health reasons, effective on New Year’s Day. His replacement to the five-member arbiter of election disputes will be picked by Gov. Pat McCrory from candidates recommended by the state Republican Party.

The board’s remaining members will meet Jan. 5 to finalize the presidential candidates who will appear on the state’s primary election ballot in March.

Three are Republicans and two Democrats on the board, a composition reflecting GOP control over state government

Howard is a Raleigh lawyer appointed to a four-year term in April 2013. He previously worked on white-collar criminal cases at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina. He worked for the independent counsel’s office in Washington in 2000 as it was closing its Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations involving President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton.

The elections board is responsible for running elections and monitoring campaign finance reports statewide. Under Howard, the board aggressively enforced rules requiring county elections board members to abstain from political activity to preserve their objectivity.

The elections board in July wrapped up more than two years of investigation into whether sweepstakes industry businessmen funneled money to politicians to get them to legalize their business. Elections officials said they could find no state campaign finance law violations involving the questioned donations.

The State Bureau of Investigation is now investigating after the Wake County district attorney said several questions were beyond the scope of the elections board’s powers.

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