Feb 27, 2015 (RALEIGH) — Thanks to a 15-year-old loophole in NC election law, it’s perfectly legal for your county’s Board of Elections to staff an early voting location entirely with one political party, but a bill introduced earlier this week by Representative Michael Speciale (if passed) will curtail such possibilities from ever happening.
On Election Day, the staffing of the polls is carefully regulated to ensure both parties have at least one person in an authority position, called a “judge.” The law further allows for a “chief judge,” (usually of the same party as the Governor) who oversees the entire operation. So, in most precincts, last November, on Election Day, there were two Republican Judges and one Democratic Judge. In 2012, it was the other way around, because the governor was a Democrat.
Those bi-partisan staffing rules don’t apply during early voting.
“A local election official could easily pack an early voting location with all democrats or all republicans,” said Jay DeLancy, Director of the Voter Integrity Project, “and current election law does nothing to stop such abuse.”
VIP is not claiming this tactic was ever actually used, but were happy to see Rep. Speciale introduce a bill that will correct the vulnerability.
“If you ever had the feeling that everybody at the early voting location was from the other party,” said DeLancy, “it may have been true!”
Rep Speciale told VIP that he stumbled across that personnel loophole during in a coincidental conversation with the BOE Director from his county, while they were in front of an early voting location.
“Most people just assume the election Judges are not from same party when they vote one-stop, but the law never required it.”
The democratic spirit of election law is to create a system so transparent that both sides can see that it was a fair election and then agree to support the winner. It’s a guiding concept behind the “consent of the governed” clause in our Declaration of Independence; but staffing rules for one-stop voting violated that principle.
“This is not a partisan issue, because it could go either way, all Democrat or all Republican” said Rep Speciale. “The way things have to be set up is to minimize folks from crossing the line on either side. Both parties should be be interested in fixing this one.”
Speciale’s bill, short titled, “Same Reqs/Officials/Early Vote & Election Day” (HB 116) can be viewed by clicking here.[For a more detailed analysis of this vulnerability and a checklist of questions to ask in order to determine whether or not this type of abuse occurred in a past election in your county, please click here.]