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Voting rightsThere was a good deal of anecdotal evidence during the November election indicating that something was amiss in a lot voting places around the state. Now, sadly, there is damning confirmation in a new report from the watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina. This is from the report summary:

“New voting restrictions and unprepared poll workers kept as many as 50,000 North Carolinians from voting in this fall’s general election, according to an analysis by the elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Although most voters reported that casting a ballot was easy and election officials generally responded quickly to fix a broken machine, there is mounting evidence that a shorter early voting period, confusion caused by new election rules, and strong turnout pushed many Election Day polling sites to the breaking point.

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News

Michele Jawando, Vice President of the Legal Progress project at the D.C.-based Center for American Progress, faxed a letter to the North Carolina State Board of Elections this afternoon voicing concern over “barriers to voting that need to be immediately addressed.” This is from the letter:

Today, however, there is evidence of barriers to voting in North Carolina that need to be immediately addressed. For example, there are reports that voting machines in Guilford County have registered incorrect votes; polling places in predominantly African American neighborhoods have been down; a polling place near Bennett College, a historically black college, having incorrect voter rolls; and another polling place missing essential thumb drives. Finally, around the Charlotte metropolitan area, voters have been confused about their precinct location. This is particularly troubling, as this is the first election that voters will not be permitted to cast provisional ballots in an incorrect precinct.

These examples of failed vote tabulation, incorrect voter rolls, and precinct confusion make it clear that voters in North Carolina are not freely able to exercise this most cherished right. We call upon the state board of elections to investigate and address these issues immediately to ensure that North Carolinians can exercise their legal right to vote.

Read the entire letter by clicking here.

Commentary

This morning’s top “you can’t make this stuff up” entry from the folks on Right Wing Avenue has to be this post from “The Locker Room” blog. In it, the author slams mail-in voting as part of a nefarious liberal plot to promote fraud and end the secret ballot.

Mind you, these claims come from one of the very groups that championed North Carolina’s “Monster” voter suppression law even as progressive critics were repeatedly blasting that law’s one-sided and blatantly partisan provisions to make voting more complicated and difficult for everyone except absentee, mail-in voters.

In other words: The Pope people would do well to get their stories straight. If they are really worried about fraud in mail-in voting, they might want to think about taking a look at the laws in their home state. Of course, to do that might actually lead to a lower turnout amongst the people that the Pope people want to vote — i.e. older, wealthy and white voters.

Hmmm — wonder how this will turn out?

Commentary

Caring and thinking North Carolinians should utter a word of thanks today to some dedicated advocates and activists working to make sure that all who wish to vote can do so. Of particular note are:

1) The legal experts at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, which is hosting a national voter protection hotline today. As the group noted in a news release yesterday:

UNC School of Law students, with other community volunteers, are staffing a toll-free, non-partisan hotline to answer voter questions on Election Day, Tuesday November 4th, as part of Election Protection, a national voter advocacy effort. Voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or 1-888-VE-Y VOTA (888-839-8682) with questions about their rights and the voting process….This November is the first major election after the passage of North Carolina House Bill 589, which significantly changed the voting laws in North Carolina. The Election Protection Hotline will provide resources to support voters at the polling place. Voters can call the Hotline to report any problems they encounter or witness at the polls, verify their registration status, or find their polling location.

and, 2) the student activists at Ignite NC. This is from a release that group distributed this morning: Read More

Commentary

Voting rightsIf you encountered a frustratingly long line at your polling place this morning (or do so later today), you can thank the current General Assembly and governor for the frustration.  There are lots of reasons that North Carolina’s new “Monster Voting Law” is making voting more difficult in our state and thereby discouraging participation, but here is an especially pernicious one that’s been under-reported and that’s contributing mightily to the long lines like the one I encountered this morning: the end of “straight ticket” voting.

In 2012, 2.5 million North Carolinians cast a straight ticket ballot. Think about that. On a ballot like the one I wrestled with for several minutes this morning, painstakingly filling in the bubbles with a silly ballpoint pen (as an aside, can’t we figure out something better and easier than a bunch of worn-out Bic pens?), the  time loss was probably at least five to seven minutes for anyone who voted in every partisan race. Now multiply 2.5 million times and you get hundreds of thousands of hours added to waiting times across the state. Add to this, the thousands of people who just give up and, well, you get the idea.

The bottom line: Longer, unnecessary waits and, you can be sure, great satisfaction amongst those who would cynically depress the vote in order to manipulate the results. As election watchdog Bob Hall noted  in an op-ed several weeks back:

The tip-off of this exclusionary strategy, and indeed the whole rationale behind the sweeping changes to state election law, comes from statements by Jack Hawke, a former NC GOP chair, former president of the Civitas Institute, and former campaign manager for Pat McCrory. After the Democrats’ 2008 victory, Hawke wrote a column for the Carolina Journal explaining why the McCrory campaign fell short that year. Blame the straight ticket and early voting, he said. Read More