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Do Republican Leaders Want An Election Melt-Down in NC?

(This is from our friend Bob Hall at Democracy North Carolina)

Something very strange happened in the final version of the State Budget that House and Senate leaders rolled out yesterday.  It eliminates provisions in earlier versions passed by the House and Senate to provide about $600,000 that would automatically release over $4 million in federal funds for improving North Carolina’s election system for 2012.

The $4 million from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is already in a North Carolina bank account, frozen until matching State money is appropriated. The federal funds could be used to pay for voting machine maintenance, software and upgrades, poll workers training, and Early Voting locations. But apparently the legislative leaders decided they would rather starve local election boards than free up money that could open more Early Voting sites for the 2012 election!

County election boards already must pay more than $5 million to operate the second primary in July. Without the HAVA funds, they must get their county commissioners to pay annual machine maintenance fees that add up to $3 million statewide, beginning July 1. In addition, they face the headache of administering the November elections with new district maps, including hundreds of split precincts that complicate ballots and add to voter confusion and delays.

The warning signs are here: The lack of proper poll worker training and equipment failure led to a large number of voters getting the wrong ballots in the May primary!

Starving NC elections is an extremely partisan decision that affects all voters. It sends the message that Republican leaders in the General Assembly are determined to make voting a privilege for the few rather than a fundamental right for all citizens.

It didn’t have to be this way, and for a time everything pointed to a reasonable approach for releasing the $4 million in federal funds.

In a February letter and then in an April resolution, the bipartisan Election Boards Association of North Carolina asked the General Assembly to appropriate the roughly $660,000 of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) State funding needed to free up $4.1 million of Title II HAVA funds.

The House version of the budget, approved in May, included $663,936 for the MOE – see pages 10 and 103.

The Senate version included $563,936 with a provision that the State Board of Elections could use money from another account to make up any difference needed to hit the right level of MOE funding. See the Senate version, pages 10 and 84:

 But when the two sides came together behind closed doors, the General Assembly leaders apparently argued about whether some of this money would go for purposes they didn’t like – so they just cut it out!

The final House/Senate Conference Report actually includes a $102,000 reduction in funding for the State Board of Elections and left the Title II money frozen, except for a small portion to improve compliance with disability access. Look for SBOE funding on page 10 and page 94 of this PDF document:

 Why are legislative leaders so determined to throw a monkey wrench into North Carolina’s election system in the busiest, most intense election cycle in our history?

8 Comments

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  2. Jack

    June 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Discrimination toward people with disabilities continues unabated.

    HAVA funds have changed polling places by removing barriers at polling places. Over the years the State Board of Elections has steadily worked to remove barriers at the polls so people with disabilities can exercise their right to vote. Now once again the NCGA has turned back the clock to a time when access is denied to a fundamental right.

    If this is the way conservatives gain access to elected office – by denying people their right to vote – then perhaps what they are doing isn’t politics. There must be a more descriptive word for what they are doing to the electoral process.

    Conservatives want the “free market” to operate without restriction yet they won’t allow the people to operate without restriction when it comes to free elections.

  3. Roger N. Kirkman

    June 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    This ploy will not benefit the Republican party as much as its leadership thinks. Indeed, it will probably be detrimental to their election chances. I can say this because it won’t get printed until it’s too late. What will happen is that many more voters will show up at the poll on election day than would otherwise. The numbers will probably be more than those clogging the polls in November 2008. There will be a lot of provisional ballots cast, slowing down lines to vote on election day. As a chief poll judge, I can tell you filling them out (for me, as well as the provisional voter) is time-consuming. Other voters will be delayed, but as long as they show up by 7:30, they will be able to stand in the queue until they can vote. At eleven o’clock (we’re required by law to stay). In the cold. Maybe raining. This will be their experience as they are getting ready to vote for NC House and Senate. It’s possible electioneers are out there beyond the 50′ perimeter, reminding them that it’s the Republicans making them stand out in the rain or snow because they didn’t want to put up matching funds. I say to the Republican leadership, “Go for it.”

  4. Roger N. Kirkman

    June 21, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Here’s another plan for them. If the Republican leadership REALLY wants to save the beleaguered NC taxpayer’s money, they could consolidate all the voting into the courthouse downtown. That way, the state would only need 101 polling places (High Point has a courthouse), and it would satisfy their requirement that people who “shouldn’t be voting” would be dissuaded from voting because most of them are too poor to have automobiles. Then, have more poll judges so the hours could be cut down to, say, 9 to 5 (after all, those are banking hours, so everyone should be able to work around that), and the state would save on overtime (if there were any for poll workers). Then only investors could vote (the Republican desideratum), because the rest of us would be working at our jobs. The Republican leadership wouldn’t have to worry about the jobless showing up to vote and ruining their desired result, because most of them won’t have cars, either. And the Republican leadership can point with pride at their accomplishment of all that tax money we’re being saved. In this case, seven cents per North Carolina. Every couple of years.

  5. david esmay

    June 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I haven’t met a Republican yet who wouldn’t spend $5.00 to save a dime. Their attitude is the poor have too many rights and the wealthy not enough.

  6. JeffS

    June 21, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I think a better way to put it David, is that they would spend $5.00 to keep someone they didn’t like from having a dime.

  7. Frank Burns

    June 22, 2012 at 6:08 am

    The HAVA money should be held back for expenses related to photo IDs when the law is eventually passed.

  8. david esmay

    June 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Frank, enough already, it’s extraordinary how redundant your ideas are.