DEMOCRACY NC STATEMENT ON STATEWIDE CANVASS OF MARCH PRIMARY:
“Such a fragile method of protecting people’s votes, by rescuing them after the election, cannot be tolerated.”
RALEIGH (May 31, 2016) – Today the N.C. State Board of Elections (NCSBOE) is meeting to certify the results of the 2016 March Primary – the first election with the state’s new photo ID requirement. Problems during the March Primary, many of which Democracy North Carolina brought to the State Board’s attention, prompted the NCSBOE to hold a statewide audit, which revealed that some county boards of election violated state law in the handling of ballots and delayed the statewide canvass by two months.
Democracy North Carolina applauds the State Board of Elections for their diligent work to correct many of the wrongs identified from the March Primary election process. Each time Democracy North Carolina pointed out a major case of disenfranchisement, the Board’s staff would take action to fix that particular case. But an election system that depends on such a fragile method of protecting people’s votes, by rescuing them one-by-one after the election, cannot be tolerated.
For example, Democracy North Carolina notified the NCSBOE that:
- In Forsyth County, Democracy North Carolina found that over 130 provisional ballots were rejected because there was no signature line on the cover form and voters were not provided with instructions to sign the form. Despite this error, the Forsyth Board of Elections threw out these votes for lack of signature. The NCSBOE found the county had used an improper form and ordered a new canvass to reinstate the 130 votes.
- In Mecklenburg County, 13 student voters had their provisional ballots rejected because they wrote “class schedule” as a reasonable impediment for voting without ID. The NCSBOE found that this justification was similar to “work schedule,” which is a preset acceptable reason to vote without ID, and called on Mecklenburg County to count the votes of these young voters.
These voters were saved in time for the final canvass.
In an amicus brief filed last Thursday, Democracy North Carolina pointed out that retroactive action is not enough. In the brief, the organization identified numerous examples of voters who were disenfranchised by the deeply flawed implementation of the new photo ID requirement, including:
- Creola Clark, an 89-year-old African-American in Forsyth County who has voted for decades. In March, Ms. Clark, who has only one leg, voted curbside where voters are not required to present photo ID, but can instead present a non-photo ID, such as a utility bill. Despite doing so, Ms. Clark was given a provisional ballot (not a regular ballot), which later was not counted.
- Charles Young, a 73-year-old registered voter and former attorney in Catawba County who voted successfully in North Carolina 64 times between 1977 and 2015. In March, Mr. Young, who is white, was turned away from the polls for lack of an acceptable ID and was encouraged to go home and find his passport. He returned with an expired passport. Despite the fact that poll workers knew Mr. Young personally, he was not told of the “reasonable impediment” exception nor offered a provisional ballot. He was turned away a second time. “I had previously voted for almost four decades without any issues,” said Young.
- Jazlin Laboy, a 21-year-old Hispanic female who is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. After waiting 30-minutes to early vote, Jazlin presented an out-of-state driver’s license and was sent to another line to vote a provisional ballot. She was not told about a “reasonable impediment” declaration. After waiting 50-minutes, Ms. Laboy was forced to leave the polling place to make it to her job. Her work and school schedule prevented her from returning to the polls. “I am upset by how complicated the voting process was, and that because of the extra photo ID requirement I was unable to vote in my first presidential primary.”
These examples demonstrate that, because of the voter ID law’s complexity and confusion, election officials were unable to conduct the March Primary in a uniform and fair manner. By definition, an election system that arbitrarily accepts or rejects the ballots of citizens with equal eligibility is suspect and will cause voters to lose faith in its integrity as a fair means to choose their representatives. Even as we advocate for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out this complicated Voter ID law, we’re calling for more and better poll working training, improvements in election equipment, and increased resources to help election officials deal with the massive voter turnout expected for the November General Election.
Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and training to increase civic participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and remove systemic barriers to voting and serving in elected office.