North Carolina’s voting machine

This week’s theme is voting legislation. We had a brownbag lunch session with two of our professors Tuesday. The School of Government’s faculty is fantastic.

I’ve been following Montravius King in the news. Here’s a young leader for North Carolina.

The short story is King has been voting in his college town of Elizabeth City for as long as he’s gone to college there. When he applied to run for city council in Elizabeth City this year, the Pasquotank County board of elections said “nope”.

Now there is some history of sentiment in the state about whether college students should be allowed to vote in cities where they don’t intend to live, but  the courts have decided, rightly, that students should be able to vote in their adopted towns. After all, who knows whether those students will make those towns their more permanent homes, and aren’t they receiving services and subject to rules and restrictions while they live there anyhoo? 

The State Board of Elections made the right call and unanimously voted to allow King to run for office in his college town. So now we have a dynamic of the SBE confirming a student’s right to run for office and hence, vote in his college town, which seems antithetical to the statute that came out of the legislature this year; philosophically, if not diametrically. 

So I emailed this story to our classmates and upon Dr. Berner’s suggestion, asked Professors Bob Joyce and Michael Crowell if they would talk to the students about voting and elections legislation in North Carolina.

Here’s what we learned:

  • VIVA, the Voter Identification Verification Act (VIVA) goes into effect in 2016. Then, voters will have to show a photo ID card, student IDs notwithstanding.  
  • Beginning in 2014, the early voting period shrinks from three weeks to two.
  • You can vote only in your precinct. There are no more provisional ballots, if you go to the wrong polling site.
  • There will be no more same-day voter registration.
  • People and PACs can make contributions up to $5,000 (up from $4,000) to political candidates. Here’s the ratified bill.

What’s crazier is how the voting apparatus works in North Carolina. So…

  • The Governor appoints members to the five-person State Board of Elections. By statute, three members are from the Governor’s party, two from the minority.
  • The SBE then appoints members to all 100 county boards of elections. Again, two members are the majority party, one is minority.
  • The county boards of election determine polling sites. Are there criteria for opening or closing a site? Nope.

So you have situations like the Watauga County board consolidating three polls into one, closing the poll onsite at Appalachian State University and forcing 9,000 voters into one polling site. Well, Watauga County residents got p!ssed, the board reversed their decision and reopened the site at App State. Forsyth County’s board of elections also backed away from their intent to close the early voting site on Winston-Salem State University’s campus. The fact is though, these boards had no legal imperative to back down.

In North Carolina, voting districts have been gerrymandered by demographics.
The voting mechanism is run by one party.
That party determines where people can vote.

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