Washington, D.C. — Continuing its spotlight on the issues voters could experience on Election Day at the polls, the Center for American Progress released its fourth brief assessing potential problems, this time specifically looking at North Carolina.
In July, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down key provisions of North Carolina’s “monster” voter suppression law—namely, those related to voter ID requirements and cuts to early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration. The court found that in creating the law, state lawmakers targeted African American voters, designing restrictions on voting rights with “almost surgical precision” so they would be most disadvantaged.
The state’s “monster” law was passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that eliminated the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement for changes to voting procedures in states with a practice of voter suppression. The law, along with other problems at the polls, kept at least 30,000 North Carolinians from voting in the 2014 election.
Key issues identified by CAP experts include:
Problems in the primaries: In the 2016 primaries, more than 1,400 voters were forced to cast provisional ballots that were not counted as a result of the voter ID requirement. These votes were not counted. Other voters were denied provisional ballots altogether, while some poll workers even told voters not to vote provisionally.
Cutbacks to voting opportunities: Even though cuts to early voting in the voter suppression law were struck down, 23 out of the 100 county boards in North Carolina attempted to reduce early voting opportunities as compared with 2012. African American voters have been disproportionately affected by the remaining changes. Cuts made to so-called off hours—voting hours outside of traditional working hours—will affect 44 percent of the state’s black voters, compared with just 36 percent of non-Hispanic whites. County-level voting plans effectively ended Sunday voting for 4 percent of the state’s African American voters.
Use of provisional ballots: In 2008, 1.2 percent of ballots cast in North Carolina were provisional ballots, and 50.9 percent of all provisional ballots cast were rejected. The 2012 election saw similar numbers: 1.1 percent of ballots were provisional, and 54.4 percent of all provisional ballots were rejected. In past elections, a correlation has been found between the use of provisional ballots and counties with the most voters of color.
Voter challenges and voter intimidation: A new law also allows political parties to appoint up to 10 observers per county in addition to the two to which they were already entitled for each polling place, which may increase the threat of voter intimidation at polling places. On the day of a primary or election, any voter, including an observer, may enter the voting enclosure to challenge the registration of any other voter registered in the same county. North Carolina law requires a buffer zone around polling places in which no electioneering is allowed and voter harassment is barred. State law also prohibits interfering with or attempting to interfere with voters inside the voting enclosure and during the ballot-marking process, although the definition of “voting enclosure” is troublingly narrow. North Carolina also has strong protections requiring judges to “enforce peace and good order in and about the place of registration and voting” and to ensure that voters have access to the polling site.
Read the issue brief, “Preventing Problems at the Polls: North Carolina,” here.
Access the previous briefs in the series: Wisconsin, Florida, and Ohio.
For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at email@example.com or 202.741.6258.