Courts & the Law, News, Voting

Oral argument in NC racial gerrymandering case to be heard at US Supreme Court today

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument today in two cases alleging racial gerrymandering, including McCrory v. Harris.

SCOTUS Blog posted a very thorough argument preview on both cases last week.

When creating new legislative maps, some states say that they feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the Voting Rights Act requires states with large minority populations to consider race when drawing district lines. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution bars states from making race the predominant factor when they draw districts.

McCrory v. Harris challenges two congressional district maps that the state’s legislature drew. The case deals specifically with districts 1 and 12, which SCOTUS Blog notes has been at the heart of four earlier racial gerrymandering cases at the court.

A three-judge panel ruled in February that the North Carolina Congressional District map was drawn with racial bias. The argument preview describes:

Defending the districts, North Carolina Republicans maintain that the redistricting of NC-12 was not about race, but was instead part of an effort to maximize the number of congressional districts that would elect Republican candidates. Indeed, they emphasize, the consultant who drew the plan only consulted political data from the 2008 presidential election and did not consider racial demographics at all when drawing the district. And because of the close correlation between race and political party, they argue, drawing legislative districts to account for the voters’ preferred political parties can result in district lines that correlate with race. When that happens, they continue, the plaintiffs must “do more than show that race is a possible explanation for a district’s lines.” Rather, they must demonstrate that the legislature “actually subordinated traditional race-neutral districting principles” to race.

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News, Voting

State Board of Elections instructs local boards to dismiss McCrory protests challenging voter eligibility

The State Board of Elections has instructed all local boards to dismiss all protests filed by Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign “that merely disputes the eligibility of a voter.”

The announcement was made late Monday night and an order was published with further instructions.

A protest alleging the occurrence of an election law violation that affected votes sufficient in number to change the outcome of a single-county contest concerns the manner in which votes were counted or tabulated, and therefore such protest must be resolved prior to county canvass as required by [the law]. A protest that does not allege an election law violation regarding a sufficient number of votes to change the outcome of a single-county contest shall not delay the county canvass procedures since the county may not retrieve and discount such ballots. In no case shall the county board delay the timely hearing and decision on a protest timely filed.

Local elections boards are to consider claims disputing a voter’s eligibility as voter challenges instead of protests. If a local board finds a violation occurred that did not affect enough ballots to change the outcome of any single-county contest, it is instructed to forward its findings to the State Board, according to the order.

No county board may retrieve and discount a ballot cast by an unqualified voter unless a challenge was timely brought under Article 8, or the State Board or a county board has found that ineligible voters participated in numbers sufficient to change the outcome of the election.

The order goes on to state that local boards must preserve the due process rights of all voters, including adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

Democratic challenger Roy Cooper is leading Republican McCrory in the state’s gubernatorial race by more than 9,600 votes, but the current governor’s campaign has raised allegations of voter fraud and has asked for a recount of ballots in Durham.

The State Board will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday to hear the recount request.

News, Voting

Pat McCrory filing for a recount of governor’s race

In a move political pundits expected, Gov. Pat McCrory has called for a recount of the gubernatorial race.

His campaign released the following:

To protect the voters of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory joined Chuck Stuber, candidate for state auditor, in officially filing for a statewide recount Tuesday morning. This recount was filed to meet the original date statutorily specified, although the formal recount will not occur until after the county boards of election certify their results.

“With many outstanding votes yet to be counted for the first time, legal challenges, ballot protests and voter fraud allegations, we must keep open the ability to allow the established recount process to ensure every legal vote is counted properly,” said Russell Peck, Pat McCrory’s campaign manager.

McCrory trails Democrat Roy Cooper by more than 6,600 votes, according to the State Board of Elections. Cooper’s Campaign, however, has said it’s more than 8,000 votes.

Under state law, McCrory can ask for a recount if the final margin is fewer than 10,000 votes. His campaign has been embroiled in a number of state-wide protests to local election boards trying to prove anything from voter-fraud to problems in tabulating vote counts.

Courts & the Law, News, Voting

Conservative Civitas sues NC Board of Elections over same-day registration votes

The Civitas Institute, a conservative media outlet, is suing the North Carolina State Board of Elections in federal court in an attempt to have same-day registration votes held until a mail verification process “can run its course.”

Civitas claims in the 10-page lawsuit that voter registration applications submitted through the same-day registration process violate North Carolina law because they cannot be completely verified until at least nine days after the Board certifies election results.

Moreover, the use of these [same-day registration] ballots creates a separate class of registrants, with non-[same-day registration] registrants in a separate, unequal category.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of North Carolina by Civitas President Francis X. De Luca against the State Board, Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach and members of the Board.

Civitas states in the lawsuit that the earliest same-day registration applications could be verified through mail, if notices were sent out in a timely fashion, would be Dec. 7, which means invalid ballots will be counted.

The lawsuit doesn’t note any one particular race Civitas is concerned about, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines, especially considering the lawsuit was filed amid numerous protests to local election boards in reference to the tight gubernatorial race.

Considering the narrow margins in certain statewide races indicated by the unofficial results, the inclusion of invalid ballots could mean the difference between one candidate winning over another.

Based on evidence cited in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case, North Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, Civitas estimates in the lawsuit that there will be 3,000 invalid same-day registration ballots included in the State Board’s certification of election results on Nov. 29.

There were 97,753 same-day registrants in North Carolina with the following political party breakdown: Democrats, 34,484; Republicans, 33,550; Libertarian, 857; and Unaffiliated, 28,862.

Voting

Amid talk of circuses and kangaroos, State Board of Elections takes control over Bladen County

stickers that say I Voted

In a rambling two-hour emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, the State Board of Elections voted 5-0 to assume jurisdiction over voting tallies in Bladen County, where there is an investigation into alleged absentee ballot mills.

However, the board, which holds a 3-2 Republican majority, stopped short of acquiescing to a request from Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign to assume jurisdiction over 52 local election boards where protests had been filed. That move would have stripped those boards of control over their own proceedings, including investigations and hearings. Five counties, including Halifax and Durham, have already dismissed their protests, although appeals could still be filed.

McCrory trails Democrat Roy Cooper by about 8,000 votes. Under state law, McCrory can ask for a recount if the final margin is fewer than 10,000 votes.

According to the most recent county protest filings, the total number of votes involved is roughly 300. Even if all those votes were invalidated — and all of them went for McCrory — it would not change the outcome of the governor’s race.

The board will meet again Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Raleigh to give legal guidance to the 52 counties that are grappling with protests and voter challenges. Any legal ruling, though, could be applied to the other 48 counties, where protests could still be filed by the deadline: the second business day after the canvass concludes, generally this Wednesday.

Rhonda Amoroso, a Republican member of the state board, said she was concerned that Tuesday’s meeting would take too long, and thus the scope of the meeting should be limited. “It sounds like we’re going to have a circus,” she said. “We can’t have a kangaroo court. We can’t have people droning on for 12 hours without a dinner break.”

The board also considered telling all counties — even those without protests and challenges — to stop their canvasses. Some of those final vote tallies are already underway; others are scheduled to begin tomorrow. That motion failed, and those canvasses can continue.

In counties without protests, the canvasses can be finalized now that the state board has analyzed voter registrations that were conducted through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Many voters had complained that although they had registered through the DMV, when they went to the polls election workers told them they were not registered. Instead, those voters had to cast provisional ballots.

Brian Neesby, a business systems analyst with the SBOE, said 1,499 voters had been affected. Research on those voters’ eligibility has been sent to the respective counties, he said.

Kim Strach, executive director of the SBOE, said an audit of Department of Correction databases and voter registration rolls showed that 339 people had cast absentee or one-stop ballots who also had a felony conviction. “We don’t know how many election day voters may have cast ballots [who are felons],” she said.

People with felony convictions can vote in North Carolina as long as they are “off paper,” meaning they are no longer in jail or on parole or probation.

The board also rejected Amoroso’s request to assume jurisdiction in Durham County. Amoroso, the former chairperson of the New Hanover GOP, lodged vague allegations that “something is out there,” but added, “I don’t know if there’s criminal activity.”

There has never been an allegation nor an investigation into criminal activity in Durham during the General Election. On Friday, the Durham Board of Elections, which like all local elections boards, has a Republican majority, voted 3-0 to dismiss a protest by NCGOP attorney Thomas Stark for lack of evidence.

John Posthill, who was among Stark’s witnesses, has filed additional protests. He alleges seven felons voted illegally and that 17 people voted in two states. However, he did not provide exact street addresses for those 17 people. He also claims that provisional ballots were mishandled, but says someone else witnessed it.

Posthill lives in Morrisville but in a portion that lies within Durham County.

This story is developing. Check back Monday for more coverage.