Election observers have caused few riots in North Carolina
Published Sunday 13 November 2022 8:06 am
By Hannah Schoenbaum, Associated Press/Report for America
After widespread concern from unruly election observers prompted several North Carolina counties to increase election security, the state Board of Elections received eight reports involving party-appointed observers — one on election day and seven during the early ones Poll.
In total, the State Council received reports of 21 behavioral violations involving both observers and activists during the 2022 general election – 16 during the early election period from October 20 to November 5 and five on election day.
The reports included 12 counts of alleged voter intimidation, one count of possible voter interference and eight counts of suspected intimidation by election officials, as categorized by the board. There could be other incidents that have not yet been reported, said board spokesman Patrick Gannon.
Activists, also referred to as campaigners in the reports, were the top perpetrators of misconduct on election day, according to The Associated Press.
“One incident of voter or poll official intimidation is too many, and we will continue to do what we can to protect voters and poll officials,” Gannon told the AP, noting that the vast majority of voters cast their votes without issue.
Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state board, told reporters Monday that all incidents will be reviewed by the board’s investigative division, which will decide whether the complaints should be escalated to law enforcement, a local prosecutor or the US Department of Justice.
Election Day incidents involved a Halifax County observer who allegedly photographed voters at the side of the road and a Wake County poll worker who reported being followed by a car from a polling station. A Rutherford County activist allegedly told a voter not to enter a polling station without photo ID — which isn’t required to vote in North Carolina — falsely claiming law enforcement was “arresting people on the spot.”
In Rowan County, an activist reportedly refused to keep a reasonable distance from roadside voters, called the chief justice a derogatory term, and grabbed the judge’s cell phone and threw it away. The same person reportedly took photos of another election official’s car and then “taunted and threatened” them.
And in Granville County, an activist was cited for “aggressively herding candidates to the curb,” leaning in their cars, and ignoring voters’ pleas to be left alone.
While observers were not involved in most incidents on Election Day, some were reported during early voting for yelling at voters, refusing to leave restricted areas, photographing voters on the side of the road and standing too close to people while filling ballots.
In Columbus County, a male observer allegedly followed a poll worker home from an early voting site. The case has been referred to local law enforcement agencies.
Former President Donald Trump’s debunked claim that the results of the 2020 presidential election were falsified motivated thousands of his supporters to register as observers and scrutinize election proceedings nationwide, fueling fears that observers could cause disruption this year.
The Democratic majority on the state board voted in August to tighten rules on election observers in response to more than a dozen reported behavioral violations during the May primary. But the state Rules Review Board, appointed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, blocked the new rules later that month, leaving election officials without additional tools to guide behavior during the general election.
Gannon said the State Council was unable to compare the number of observer-related incidents to previous years.
“We have not followed these incidents in the past as we have this year, primarily because there has never been such a focus on observer behavior nor have we had many reported incidents in the past,” he said.
The board received the few communications as voters cast their ballots on Election Day at over 2,650 polling stations and at about 360 early voting locations. It is reported that nearly 3.75 million ballots were cast in the fall election, or 50.5% of the state’s 7.41 million registered voters. The nationwide voter turnout in the 2018 general election was 53%.
Voter turnout will increase slightly as county offices receive absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day ahead of upcoming deadlines. These bodies also consider whether provisional ballots should be counted.
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