Editorial: Election confirms once again what voter ID laws are really about

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the latest lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer: “The 2020 election did expose one fraud: the GOP case for Voter ID.”

As the editorial explains, the recently concluded election, in which more Americans than ever cast a vote, demonstrated once again why voter ID laws serve no useful purpose other than to discourage lawful voters from voting. After explaining how, despite a nationwide GOP effort to ferret out fraud, virtually none has been found, the editorial puts it this way:

If there was an election in which the GOP could prove widespread voter fraud instead of just imagining it, 2020 was it.

Instead, Americans learned what experts had long told us. Election fraud is rare, and the kind of fraud that Voter ID would address – people going to a precinct and attempting to vote as someone else – is almost non-existent. As of Thursday, the Trump campaign and other Republican interests have filed more than 30 election lawsuits in 6 states. No court has found a single instance of fraud.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. One exhaustive study of 12 years of elections in five states found only 500 cases of alleged voter fraud. In 2016, North Carolina’s Board of Elections found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law.

And while the editorial readily concedes that there will always be isolated incidents of fraud anytime 150 million people cast ballots, it rightfully observes that a much more dangerous threat to the integrity of elections is to be found in the behavior of Trump toadies like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who tried to get the Georgia Secretary of State to toss out legal ballots in areas that voted for President-elect Biden. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

That’s fraudulent, too, by the way. But it’s not new. In North Carolina, Republican lawmakers have spent the past decade pushing for measures that make it harder for their opponents’ supporters to cast a ballot. They crafted a 2013 grab bag of voter suppression measures, including new voter identification requirements, that a federal court threw out because it deliberately diluted the power of Black voters and targeted them with “almost surgical precision.” They’ve had a subsequent attempt at Voter ID blocked by state and federal judges because of the possibility of discriminatory intent. A federal appeals court heard oral arguments on that law in September.

Such measures have long been unnecessary, and the 2020 election once again showed why. Americans didn’t cheat. We voted. Republicans should stop trying to make that harder.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

As NC counties continue counting every vote, we make sure every vote counts

The late voting rights champion Rep. John Lewis wrote in the days leading up to his death, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.”

For North Carolina election officials in all 100 counties, the culminating act of 2020 takes place during Friday’s little-known (and often-misspelled) “Day of Canvass,” at which local boards of elections take a final count of all properly cast ballots to certify election results for their county.

For those who’ve spent the last week criticizing these same election officials and questioning why our process takes so long when the U.S. Presidential race is over, the answer is simple: 

This is the way it works.

It’s not just that the U.S. Supreme Court doubled down on giving North Carolina until Nov. 12 to count absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 3. By law, in every presidential election, all 100 N.C. counties certify election results a full 10 days after Election Day, including outstanding military or overseas, statewide absentee, and provisional ballots.

In 2020, all eyes could be on these typically unceremonious county canvass meetings, including final counts of potentially over 100,000 outstanding absentee and provisional ballots. While only some of these ballots will ultimately be eligible for the tally, even a majority of these remaining votes could decide everything from important local and legislative races, to the balance of state supreme court, to which presidential candidate ultimately receives North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes and where our state stands in an ever-evolving electoral map.

After a week of counting ballots and pre-canvass county board of elections meetings, Friday the 13th’s Day of Canvass is where that all happens, ahead of the state board’s own canvass meeting later this month.

But it’s far from the only act of democracy happening this week.

For the hundreds of volunteer canvass monitors recruited, trained, and deployed to these meetings by organizations like Democracy North Carolina, the truly democratic act isn’t simply to make sure counties count votes, but that every eligible vote is counted. At week’s end, these volunteers will be attending canvass in most N.C. counties — many after learning of the process for the first time — to observe these events, document all that happens, help restore trust in the process, and assist voters along the way.

These volunteers will come from all walks of life, all parts of the state, all organizational affiliations, to do the unglamorous and oft-ignored post-election work of turning historic turnout into honest elections.

Together, these post-election vote protectors will join the thousands that stood at polls to assist voters during the 2020 cycle, as well as the tens of thousands of N.C. poll workers and election staffers who hosted this historic election and have been tirelessly curing and counting hard-fought votes ever since.

In his posthumous essay, Rep. Lewis closed by asking us all to “stand up for what you truly believe.”

For those leading and participating in this week’s final vote counts, that means finishing the job we started.

For that, we should all be grateful.

To learn more about the “Day of Canvass” and the role of a canvass monitor, visit demnc.co/canvass.

Sailor Jones is campaigns director at Democracy North Carolina (democracync.org).

Joe Biden wins the presidency (updated)

In the culmination to one of the most rancorous campaigns and excruciating vote counts in American history, former Vice President Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States today.

With victory secured in his birth state of Pennsylvania by virtue of the size of his lead and analysis of the votes left to be counted, Biden now has an insurmountable lead in the Electoral College. Although multiple national news outlets have called the victory, President Donald Trump has yet to concede defeat.

Click here to be taken to States Newsroom Washington bureau reporter Laura Olson’s in-depth coverage of this story.

Policy Watch will continue to update this story as events — including reactions from across North Carolina — continue to develop.

UPDATE: Associated Press called the state of Nevada for Biden this morning as well. Click here for details.

Among the reactions starting to arrive from prominent North Carolinians:

From. Rev. Dr. William Barber, head of the national Poor People’s Campaign:

This is more than a victory for Biden and Harris. This is a victory for democracy. When all the votes are counted, some 80 million Americans will have voted to end the Trumpism politics of lies, greed and the lust for power. An unprecedented coalition of American people have said clearly, “We cannot go backwards. We are going forward together.”

People did not turnout in record numbers in the midst of a pandemic to vote for a return to normal. We have elected Biden and Harris to use the power of government to lift up those who have been battered by COVID-19, battered by poverty, and battered by years of Republican extremism. We can celebrate now for a moment, but we must go to work and make sure that  people can soon feel that their votes will result in policy change.

As I said to Vice President Biden when he was running, our hope is in the mourning. If his administration can answer the cries of mourning people with real, transformative policy that addresses systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of healthcare, it will indeed be a new day in America. If the new administration and Congress will challenge the war economy and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism and nativism, then we the people can believe again that this democracy will continue to be made a more perfect union. If this win is to be a victory for all of us, we must have a major political reconstruction.

From Congressman David Price:

This is a moment to celebrate — we unseated an unfit and dangerous President, elected our first female Vice President, and are on track to win the popular vote by a historic margin. I am proud of all of us for standing strong and making our voices heard. Your voice, your vote, and your dedication to our future helped make the difference.

The coming weeks won’t be easy. We know Trump will try to do everything he can to invalidate the results of this election. But the American people have already made their choice loud and clear: it’s time to move forward with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris leading the fight.

From Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina:

Equality North Carolina joins you in celebrating the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, a reign of terror that left vulnerable Americans fearful for their lives and safety on a daily basis. Because of your hard work throughout this election cycle, LGBTQ Americans, Black and Brown folks, immigrants and folks from all marginalized backgrounds have the possibility of a brighter future on the horizon.

In particular, we’re celebrating Kamala Harris becoming Vice President-elect, a historic win as the first woman and woman of color to serve in the role

Joe and Kamala’s wins in no way will fix all of our problems. We’re still in the midst of a raging pandemic, unemployment remains at an all-time high and we’re facing a terrifying judicial makeup from the highest courts in the land all the way down. But at least for today, we can rest assured that leaders with our community’s best interests at heart will soon be governing from the highest office in the land, and Equality North Carolina will be working alongside them every step of the way.

With more ballots to count, official election results won’t be finalized in NC for another week

NC Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell (Photo: NCBOE)

North Carolina elections officials on Wednesday continued to process a record 5.5 million ballots — equivalent to a voter turnout of 74% — a figure elections board chairman Damon Circosta called “astounding.”

Official results, including those for the presidential race, won’t be available until Nov. 12 or Nov. 13, when county canvassing is complete, said state board Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell at a press conference this afternoon.

Still unknown are the number of provisional ballots, as well as those absentee submitted by mail that were postmarked by Nov. 2. Those absentee by mail votes will be counted as long as they arrive at the board of elections by Nov. 12.

“All eligible ballots have already left the voters hands,” Brinson Bell said.

The state board is expected to receive county data on provisional ballots tomorrow by noon; however, county elections officials still must research those ballots and determine their validity.

In the 2016 election, 61,000 provisional ballots were cast and just under half — 27,000 — were counted.

The final set of unofficial results arrived at the state board at 12:28 a.m. today. Of the ballots, 977,000 were absentee by mail ballots , 3.6 million were cast during early voting with another 900,000 on Election Day.

The number of absentee by mail ballots was nearly five times the usual number in previous elections, roughly 200,000 on average.

There remain 117,000 absentee by mail ballots that were requested, but have yet to arrive. It’s possible those voters opted to cast ballots in person or not at all.

“Our job is to get the count right as fast as we can, but to get it right,” Circosta said.

Brinson Bell underscored the importance of conducting “an accurate and fair election,” in which North Carolinians “can have confidence in votes that they cast.”

Civil rights group fielding thousands of calls on its national “election protection hotline” (Updated)

In a 1:00 p.m. briefing, Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law detailed several examples of Election Day problems reported to the group thus far from voting sites around the country.

Some of the incidents, Clarke said, were likely to lead to litigation later today. Among the issues reported:

  • precincts in Georgia (particularly in Spalding and Morgan Counties) in which voting machines were not properly “calibrated” — thus making them unusable — and paper ballots used as a back-up were in short supply;
  • at least two polling sites in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that opened several hours late;
  • reports of potential voter intimidation at Orange County, Florida in which a group of trucks was parked in front of a polling site with the apparent intent of discouraging voters from entering;
  • another Florida incident in which two men claiming to be law enforcement deputies had placed themselves outside a polling site and were alleged to be intimidating voters;
  • robocalls in multiple locations targeting voters with false information telling them to “stay safe and stay home”;
  • complaints of malfunctioning voting machines in Louisiana that were allegedly defaulting a voter’s presidential selection to the first name on the ballot;
  • reports of a private Facebook page in Green Bay, Wisconsin spreading the false rumor that the local mayor had “rigged” the election; and
  • reports of significant delays at several precincts in Franklin County, Ohio.

Overall, Clarke said the more than 100,000 calls received thus far during this fall’s election has been very high and represented more than the group fielded throughout the calendar years 2016.

Complaints were received about this individual placing himself near the entrance to a polling place in Williamsport, PA. Image: Twitter account of Kristen Clarke

5:00 p.m. UPDATE:

In a late afternoon media call, Clarke provided a new series of updates on complaints received from around the country.

As a general matter, Clarke said she was encouraged by the fact that reports of troubles have been “isolated and sporadic.” Among the reports received this afternoon:

  • the intimidating presence of a man dressed in military-like garb in Williamsport, Pennsylvania;
  • voters in York County, Pennsylvania being denied language assistance to which they are entitled;
  • an intimidating presence of law enforcement officers (including some on horseback) at multiple sites in Denver, Colorado;
  • word from Suffolk County, New York that what appeared to be the effigy of the corpse of one of the presidential candidates was on display near a polling site;
  • some Missouri voters being quizzed by officials about their COVID-19 status;
  • voters at the Philadelphia sites that opened several hours late being given provisional ballots to vote without adequate explanation that would have allowed them to fill them in completely.

Clarke also reported progress on resolving problems identified earlier in the day in Georgia where voting equipment had malfunctioned.

She had no additional word on the situation in Alamance County, where according to news reports, a follow-up march to the event on Saturday that ended in police violence is currently underway.

To contact the Election Protection Hotline, dial 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). Click here for foreign language numbers and more information.

This is a developing story that will be updated as events warrant.