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Election law changes blocked up to 50,000 N.C. voters

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Report should be a "Wake-up call" says Democracy North Carolina

A democratic society should guarantee that every citizen seeking to exercise their civic right and responsibility to vote can do so. According to an analysis by the elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, changes to North Carolina election law made in 2013, combined with unprepared poll workers, blocked as many as 50,000 North Carolinians from casting their ballots in the general election last month - and "possibly more":

Democracy North Carolina analyzed 500 reports from poll monitors in 38 counties and 1,400 calls to a voter assistance hotline. It found that voters in over a dozen counties stood in very long lines on Election Day, some for three hours. Monitors reported that thousands left without voting.

The analysis found that election officials were not prepared for the extra time voters needed due to the loss of straight-party voting, a provision that had allowed voters to mark one choice for all the candidates of a political party. Polling places were understaffed and underequipped, and many poll workers were confused about how to apply the new rules about provisional ballots.

“I have waited 1 hour 35 minutes just to get within an hour of the voting booth,” said a hotline caller in Winston-Salem. “It’s so sad that probably 25 percent of the voters gave up and left after the first hour or so of waiting.”

The analysis cites local Republican and Democratic officials who complained about the long delays. “We had to snake the line so drastically around the [Taylors] precinct that it was up to a three-hour wait,” said Wilson County Republican Party Chair Gary Proffitt.

Even after enduring long lines, thousands of voters were turned away because they were in the wrong precinct, the report says. It notes that nearly 6,000 voters cast valid out-of-precinct ballots in the 2010 midterm election, but less than 500 were accepted this year under the new rules.

Similarly, more than 21,000 voters successfully registered and voted on the same day during the 2010 early voting period, but that option is no longer available.

More than 2.9 million North Carolinians voted in the 2014 general election, but a preliminary review of 1,400 hotline calls, 500 poll monitor reports from across the state, and other data indicates that tens of thousands of citizens were blocked from voting, largely because of election law changes adopted in 2013.

The number of voters silenced because of the new law likely exceeds 30,000 and could reach 50,000 or more.


The 2014 election should be a loud wake-up call for intensified voter education, dramatically improved training of poll workers, larger staffs at polling centers, a well resourced elections system, and policy changes that make the voting process more accessible, fair, and secure. If the 2013 law is not overturned in court, large-scale changes will be needed to avert a disaster in the 2016 presidential election.

Read the entire report here: