COVID-19, News, Voting

GOP runoff primary moved from May to June 23 in response to COVID-19 pandemic

N.C. State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell

North Carolina State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell announced today that she is moving the Republican runoff primary for the 11th Congressional district from May 12 to June 23 in response to the public health emergency around COVID-19.

Bell said that in crises the agency is tasked not with stopping elections but with finding a safe and accessible way to proceed. She signed an executive order today moving the election, extending some related deadlines and closing county boards of elections offices to the public. Those boards will continue to accept voter registration forms, absentee request forms and other documents.

She made the announcement to the State Board of Elections at its noon meeting today. Board members supported the decision, and one person asked the public, candidates for office and committees for patience and cooperation.

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), who is a chair of the new legislative COVID-19 working group, also tweeted out a statement shortly after the announcement in support of the decision.

“The safety of our voters, poll workers, and elections board staff members must be our paramount concern during this present crisis,” he said. “I fully support the Executive Director’s decision to delay the runoff primary and look forward to working with her staff on any additional legislative measures that could be necessary.”

No Republican candidate received the 30 percent of votes required in the 11th district to avoid a runoff second primary. Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) has represented the 11th district since 2013 but announced in December he would not seek another term. He was recently tapped by President Donald Trump to become the White House’s next Chief of Staff.

The second primary election will be held in the 17 western North Carolina counties that make up the 11th district: Avery, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania and Yancey.

Madison Cawthorn, who finished second according to unofficial results, with 20.38 percent of the vote, requested a second primary against top vote-getter Lynda Bennett, who received 22.72 percent of the vote.

No other second primaries will be held this year in North Carolina.

All registered Republicans who live in the 11th Congressional District may vote in the second primary; they did not have to vote in the first primary to be eligible to vote in the second primary.

Also eligible are unaffiliated voters who live in the 11th Congressional District who either didn’t vote in the March primary, or who voted a Republican ballot in the primary. Unaffiliated voters who voted a nonpartisan, Democratic, or Libertarian ballot in the first primary may not participate in the second primary.

Voters do not need a photo ID to cast a ballot in the second primary; temporary injunctions preventing implementation of the photo ID law remain in place. The law was enjoined by a federal district court on Dec. 31 and by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Feb. 18.

Bell’s decision came after consultation with state emergency officials, Republican Party leaders and elections officials in the counties that make up the 11th District, according to a news release from the State Board. All agreed that moving the second primary to a later date was the right decision in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The health and safety of North Carolina voters, election staff and poll workers is our top priority during this time,” Bell said. “State and county elections officials are working hard on plans to ensure voters can cast ballots safely in all future elections, even if the threat from COVID-19 persists.”

The order also allows the 17 counties in the 11th Congressional district to move or consolidate voting precincts, if necessary because of the pandemic, for the second primary only and with the approval of the State Board executive director. This is to make sure that polling places are available and will be adequately staffed for in-person voting.

This week, Bell also formed the North Carolina Task Force on Elections & COVID-19 Response, which includes about 20 state and county elections officials and a state Emergency Management representative. The Task Force met telephonically for the first time Wednesday.

Read Bell’s full executive order below.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Order 2020 03 20 (Text)

News, Voting

NC Super Tuesday overall turnout down from 2016, but it’s not all drab news

Overall voter participation on Super Tuesday was down this year compared to 2016, but it’s not all bad news. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Voter turnout on Super Tuesday was down slightly from the 2016 presidential primary election, but Democratic turnout was up, according to preliminary statistics.

Overall, 31 percent of North Carolinians registered to vote cast a ballot yesterday compared to almost 36 percent in the 2016 primary election. The results were expected by pollsters and mimicked trends in other states, according to Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen.

“I think overall turnout was down a bit simply because the Presidential race is what drives voters to the polls, and since both sides had a competitive primary in 2016 but only the Democrats did this year, Republican turnout was down,” he said in an email Wednesday. “When the most competitive race on your side is Lieutenant Governor, it’s not a big turnout driver.”

He said it was probably a good sign for Democrats that their primary turnout was up from 1,322,433 votes cast for president yesterday compared to 1,142,916 in 2016.

“That has a lot to do with which ballot unaffiliated [voters] picked but it still shows a pretty healthy increase, and that’s a trend that’s been seen in other states as well,” Jensen added.

There are more registered unaffiliated voters in North Carolina this year (2,294,966) than registered Republicans (2,075,680). Democrats, though, still hold the top spot with 2,526,279 registered voters.

Warren County appeared to have the biggest voter turnout percentage-wise on Super Tuesday with nearly 57 percent of all registered voters there casting a ballot. The Board of Elections Director there, Debbie Formyduval, said county-wide turnout is always good, but the local school board and county commissioner races were big draws this time around.

“We have a very strong political county,” she said. “We really do have good turnout in my county.”

The number of registered voters was down in Warren County this year with 12,975, compared to 13,315 in 2016, but the overall turnout was up from 41 percent in 2016. The county has just shy of 21,000 residents, according to the 2010 Census, and 52 percent of the population is Black. There are also more registered Black voters there this year, 6,733, than there are white voters, 5,126.

Formyduval said the county had a lot of early voters, and that for the most part, Super Tuesday operations went really well. Her staff was prepared for the usual election scramble and were ready to direct voters to their proper voting precincts as they needed assistance.

It was the first county-wide race in which Warren County used a new express vote system with iVote touch screens. Formyduval said they tested the systems in the November municipal elections, so poll workers were prepared, but it was a new experience for many voters.

“We had no problems [with it],” she added, noting that there was good feedback from voters as well.

She said that the county has very accurate systems with updated addresses, and credited that in part for having such high turnout. She also gushed about Warren County voters in general.

“I’m just really proud of all my voters for showing up yesterday,” she added. “That really is key, and the one thing we have control over is our ability to vote.”

News, Voting

State Board of Elections releases voter 101 guide ahead of primary

Primary Election Day is a week away, and voters still have a lot of questions.

The State Board of Elections has centralized some basic Q&A information to help voters know the who, what, when, where and how of casting a ballot.

Voting in Primary Elections

What is a primary? In a primary election, voters select which candidates will appear on the ballot for a given political party in the general election in November. For example, the winner of a Democratic Party primary will be that party’s nominee on the general election ballot in November.

See here for a helpful, informational video about primaries from the Wake County Board of Elections.

Who can vote? Voters who are registered with one of the five recognized political parties (Constitution, Democratic, Green, Libertarian, or Republican) may only cast a ballot in that party’s primary election. Unaffiliated voters may request a Democratic, Libertarian, or Republican ballot, or nonpartisan ballot, if available. Unaffiliated voters may not vote ballots of the Constitution or Green parties, as those parties conduct closed primaries.

Can 17-year-olds vote in the primary? 17-year-olds who will be 18 by Election Day (November 3, 2020) may also vote in the primary. However, they may receive a different ballot style because they are not eligible to vote in certain contests, such as referendums, that will not appear on the November ballot.

Do I need a photo ID to vote in the 2020 primary? No. In a December 31 order, a federal district court blocked North Carolina’s voter photo ID requirement from taking effect. The injunction will remain in place until further order of the court. The North Carolina Court of Appeals also temporarily blocked the law on February 18, 2020.

Absentee By-Mail Voting

Deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail from the county board of elections: February 25, 2020

Deadline to Return Ballot: The voted ballot must be returned in person or by mail to the county board of elections no later than 5 p.m. on Election Day (March 3, 2020). Absentee ballots received after 5 p.m. on Election Day will be timely only if they are received by mail no later than 5 p.m. on the third day following the date of the election (March 6, 2020) and postmarked on or before Election Day.

For more information on absentee voting, please view the State Board’s How to Vote Absentee by Mail one pager.

Early Voting

Dates: February 13 – February 29

To find all early voting sites and schedules in your county, visit this page.

For a PDF of early voting sites and schedules by county, go here.

Early voting offers same-day registration, which allows eligible individuals to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. For voters who missed the regular voter registration deadline on February 7, early voting is the last chance to register and vote in the 2020 primary election.

Can I change my party affiliation during early voting? No. During the early voting period, registered voters may update their name or address, but may not change their party affiliation. Read more

ballot fraud, News, race, Voting

Elon Poll: In wake of Ninth District case, N.C. voters call election fraud a “major problem”

A new poll from Elon University finds more than half of N.C. voters surveyed consider election fraud a “major problem” in the state.

The poll was conducted this week in the wake of the dramatic hearings over alleged ballot fraud in the ninth congressional district,

“Now months out from the tainted 9th District election, North Carolina voters are broadly skeptical of elections in the state,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science, in a statement on the results. “A majority of the electorate has clear concerns about the fairness of future elections and the extent of fraud.”

Read more

News, Voting

BREAKING: Mark Harris bows out of NC’s 9th Congressional race

Less than a week after calling for a new election in the 9th congressional district amid allegations of fraud, Mark Harris has announced he will not run in the new election. Here’s Harris’ full statement:

Over the last several days, I have had the privilege of hearing from so many people who have stood with us, cared for us, and who have asked how they can pray for us. In my response to them I have simply said to pray for wisdom and discernment as we make decisions concerning my health situation, the new election in Congressional District 9, and where we go from here.

After consulting with my physicians, there are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January. One of those is a necessary surgery that is now scheduled for the last week in March.

Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength, and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9. While few things in my life have brought me more joy than getting to meet and know the people of this incredible part of North Carolina, and while I have been overwhelmed by the honor of their support for me as the Congressman-elect of NC-9, I owe it to Beth, my children and my six grandchildren to make the wisest decision for my health. I also owe it to the citizens of the Ninth District to have someone at full strength during the new campaign. It is my hope that in the upcoming primary, a solid conservative leader will emerge to articulate the critical issues that face our nation.

Over the course of campaigning in the district, I met and got to know one such leader, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing. Stony, from my observation, along with his wife Anne-Marie, have served Union County effectively through the years. His background and his experience have proven him to stand firm on so many of the issues that concern us, including the issue of life, our national security, and religious freedom. I hope that those who have stood with me will strongly consider getting behind Stony Rushing.

Through the challenges of life, Beth and I continually place our trust in God, and we both know He holds the future in His Hands. Please stay engaged, for it is our civic duty to do so.

Again, it has been an honor to have your love, support, encouragement, and prayers each step of our journey together. Over the next few weeks as I continue to gain strength for surgery, I want to respect my family’s desire for privacy and I will not be doing interviews.

Mark Harris

Learn more about the ballot fraud scheme in the 9th district from Policy Watch courts and law reporter Melissa Boughton: