Thursday, August 24, 2023

What's Happening to Voting Under the Republican General Assembly


Recall for this exercise two Republican operatives in North Carolina, Jim Womack and Cleta Mitchell.

An investigative piece of journalism about the "North Carolina Election Integrity Team" (NCEIT), involving largely Jim Womack and Cleta Mitchell, appeared in The Assembly back in October last fall. It painted a picture of a kind of Republican voting gestapo of "observers" who have based all their hoped-for observations on the fantasy of widespread voter fraud. The leader of the election integrity team (NCEIT) is one Jim Womack, the GOP chair of Lee County, a former county commissioner, and a follower of Cleta Mitchell, who is herself notorious as the Trump lawyer who sat in on the call to Georgia that demanded the SecState "find" a few more thousand votes. Mitchell now lives in NC and is happy to pitch in on the project of delegitimizing democracy altogether.

According to new reporting by Randy Jacobs for WUNC, these "election integrity" gnomes have been quite active advising the General Assembly on the new Republican mega-bill changing many voting procedures, S747. Here's the flat statement of their influence: "Womack and Mitchell met with top Republican lawmakers at the state legislature as they worked on their most recent omnibus elections bill."

What they got for their trouble are all nibbles around the margins of ballot-access to pick off the young and the feckless (who are always late for whatever, it seems, but who still have a constitutional right to their vote):

Elimination of a three-day grace period for counting mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, a compromise law originally worked out between both parties back in 2009 -- now defunct.

Greater latitude granted to partisan poll observers, very much at the top of Womack and Mitchell's wish list. After this year, in some precincts where they don't like the voters, there'll be a greater likelihood of pushy observers trying to intimidate the ignorant.

Here is an important Subsection regarding same-day voters did not make it into Jacobs' article: Same-day registrants must have their addresses confirmed via mail immediately following their vote:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter, if the Postal Service returns the first notice required under G.S. 163-82.7(c) as undeliverable before the close of business on the business day before canvass, the county board shall not register the applicant and shall retrieve the applicant's ballot and remove that ballot's votes from the official count.”

What that means. "Same-day" registration and voting generally involves the young and the feckless (often uninformed as election laws have changed several times in recent years: "Where do I go? What do I need?"). They go into an Early Voting site to "same-day register and vote," and they are not asked to fill out a paper form. They are asked to speak their name, address, phone number, and other stats to a poll worker, who enters it into the computer. Any typo can render that voter unreachable by mail -- it happens a lot where there are many same-day registrants, often on college campuses -- and correct addresses are obviously newly crucial in S747, because the new law (above) specifies that a single mailing will be sent to the same-day registrant after the election, and if that mailing is returned for any reason, then that voter is removed from the rolls and their paper vote retrieved and destroyed.

In a county like Watauga, that could involve up to hundreds of people who will be disenfranchised due to no error of their own. And the new law doesn't even require they be notified.

S747 has been passed by both houses and awaits either Cooper's signature or his veto. We know it ought to be a veto.

The governor has indeed vetoed this bill.

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