Election Observer Bill of Rights Passes First Hurdle

HB 369 Sponsor, Michael Speciale

Apr 25, 2019 (Raleigh) Earlier today, the NC House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law passed a bill that would roll back restrictions placed on observers by out-of-control election officials, House Bill 369, by a 9-8 voice vote today, sending it back to the Rules Committee and a possible second reading on the House Floor.

Democrat lawmakers worried the bill would invite harassment of voters at the polls, but the bill’s sponsor, Michael Speciale assured his opponents that the bill is designed to grant access “so observers can truly observe and not just be stuck in the corner somewhere,” adding that he would “work with opponents” to make sure observers cannot intimidate voters.

“North Carolina needs specified rights for election observers because of past cases of abuse and law-breaking by poll workers and activists,” said Jay DeLancy, Director of the Voter Integrity Project. “Objections to this bill make us wonder what some people are hiding.”

The group documented cases in Wake County of election officials bullying observers in 2014 when a similar measure was proposed and passed the House but not the Senate.

“They’re not all bad people, but the culture of both state and county election boards is for them to keep the public away from seeing what goes on behind closed doors,” said DeLancy, “but elections belong to the voters and not to the people counting the ballots.”

This will be a relic of NC’s sordid Jim-Crow past once HB 369 becomes law.

Adding to the concerns of VIP was a 2014 complaint the group received from two voters and later documented on film, that a Wake County election worker, stationed at their headquarters early voting site, was tricking unaffiliated voters out of requesting a Republican ballot. (See the video below and the accompanying story by clicking this link.)

“The employee who was caught red-handed was ‘retrained’ and allowed to stay on the job,” but our luck in documenting this case was incredible,” DeLancy said. “God only knows how many appalling cases of lawless behavior would be documented if observers were not bound and gagged by the current rules.”

VIP had received other reports, involving polling officials who refused to check the voters’ ID cards, during the 2016 primary, when the law required voters to present a photo ID before being allowed to vote, but the witnesses declined a camer interview