Election Board Pushes Observer-Suppression Measure

April 23, 2021 (Raleigh) While concerns over election integrity are growing throughout the nation, North Carolina’s

How can the Minority Report guy with no eyes observe any election fraud at the polls?

State Board of Elections has lunged in the opposite direction with a proposed agency rule change that effectively reduces public oversight of poll workers while making it even less likely election observers are ever present at the polls.

The proposed rule change would cut the number of election observers allowed at a voting location from the statutorily permitted nine observers on Election Day . . . down to three.

Current state law (NCGS §163-45) authorizes any political party to schedule up to two precinct-specific observers in four-hour increments all day at the polls, which amounts to six observer shifts. The same statute also enables an “at-large” observer, to enter any voting location as the party deems necessary.

Not more than two observers from the same political party shall be permitted in the voting enclosure at any time, except that in addition one of the at-large observers from each party may also be in the voting enclosure. (NCGS §163-45)

Former SBE Director Strach

In fairness to the current SBE leadership, the agency had already chipped away some observer rights by only allowing one at-large observer into the voting enclosure, even when no precinct-specific observers were present. It also restricted the total number allowed inside to two at a time or six per-day.

That attack on observer rights came under the former Director Kim Strach, who was appointed by former Governor Pat McCrory, who identifes as “Republican.”  Strach’s change appeared to be illegal to many at Voter Integrity Project, but we lacked adequate legal staffing at the time and failed to get it stopped.

Director Karen Bell’s initiative (08 NCAC 20 .0101) acts as an assault on observer rights, making it harder for parties to recruit election observers by requiring longer periods of coverage.

This proposed rule change can be fixed or withdrawn.

With enough public input, such initiatives can be stopped. Here are some reasons this is a bad proposal:

  • NC General Statute allows up to nine observers daily

  • Strach’s tenure reduced the number from nine to six

  • Bell plan would cut total allowed down to three

  • Clearly, poll workers need more oversight… not less!

  • This reduction violates Legislative intent… again!

How to Stop this Power Grab


State Board Opens Public Comment Period on Proposed Rules

Raleigh, N.C. – The State Board of Elections invites public comment on a series of proposed rules related to the expiration of political parties, precinct observers, recounts and campaign finance.

The public comment period is now open and runs through Tuesday, June 1. Comments may be made through any of the following methods:

Online: Public Comment Portal

Email:   rules@ncsbe.gov

Mail:     Attn: Rulemaking Coordinator, P.O. Box 27255, Raleigh, NC 27611-7255

A virtual public hearing will be held as follows:

Date:                  Thursday, May 6, 2021

Time:                   1 p.m.

Location:            https://bit.ly/2PqPEwz

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Please use the Panelist code provided in the confirmation email if you plan to make an oral comment during the public hearing. Please use the Attendee code if you wish to listen to the hearing but do not plan to comment.

After the public comment period and public hearing, the State Board will adopt final versions of the rules, and the Rules Review Commission will then review them for compliance with the requirements in Chapter 150B.

The rulemaking notice is posted on the State Board of Elections website, https://www.ncsbe.gov/about-elections/legal-resources/rulemaking. See below for a brief explanation of each rule.

For the full text of each rule, please visit https://dl.ncsbe.gov/Rulemaking/2021_03_01/Proposed%20Rules%20combined.pdf.

“These proposed rules would provide clarity in election processes for county boards of elections, as well as political parties” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board.

We can’t make this stuff up, but clearly violating the spirit and intent of the legislature seems to be a novel use of the word, clarity.