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NC network seeks to boost trust in elections with a statewide tour

Bob Orr

A new group in North Carolina is planning a statewide tour to bring information about the nuts-and-bolts workings of elections to the public.

The North Carolina Network for Fair, Safe, and Secure Elections will bring a program featuring elections officials, lawyers, and information about election security to each of the state’s 14 congressional districts. The network is an initiative of the Carter Center, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.

Bob Orr, a former Republican state Supreme Court justice, and Jennifer Roberts, a former Democratic mayor from Charlotte, are leading the North Carolina network.

Wake Forest on Aug. 30 is the tour’s first stop.

North Carolina is one of four states, including Arizona, Georgia, and part of Florida, where the Carter Center is testing this approach to doing “a better job educating and promoting confidence in the system,” Orr said in an interview.

“We hope we generate a good bit of public interest in how the election system works in North Carolina,” he said. “We’ve seen people losing confidence in elections. This effort, which we bill as a bipartisan or cross-partisan effort, is to try and help strengthen support for and understanding of the election system.”

Who votes, how elections are run, and how ballots are counted are contentious issues. Election denialism has spread with largely Republican-led efforts challenging elections officials, poll workers, and elections equipment nationwide and in North Carolina.

A Surry County GOP leader threatened the job of the county elections director because she did not give him access to vote tabulators, Reuters reported. One of the false claims about former President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection defeat is that modems hidden in tabulators somehow changed votes. Trump won more than 75% of the vote for president in Surry County in 2020.

Members of the state House far-right Freedom Caucus threatened to open voting machines in heavily Democratic Durham County last year during an election, which would have been illegal, Policy Watch reported. The Freedom Caucus did not go through with the threat.

The state Board of Elections this week voted unanimously to tighten the rules of conduct for partisan election observers after 15 county elections directors cited problems during this year’s primary.

For the North Carolina tour, planners are talking about having a three-part program over 90 minutes, Orr said. A panel of election workers who live in the congressional district, both Democrats and Republicans, who will talk about the elections process. A second segment will explain elections security. The third segment will feature a panel of lawyers involved in elections litigation to talk about the set paths for elections-related complaints.

Orr said planners are realistic about effort’s immediate impact, but he related a story about a man in another state who was suspicious of the system but left an information session with an appreciation of how the process worked and with details he was going to pass along to others.

The Carter Center considers this to be a long-term project that it hopes to expand to other states in future election years, Orr said.

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NC network seeks to boost trust in elections with a statewide tour