NAACP: Stop removing voters from rolls in North Carolina

Posted October 31, 2016

— Local elections boards in North Carolina are illegally removing thousands of voters from the rolls, and a disproportionate number of them are black, the NAACP said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.

Voters are being removed because of challenges filed by individuals, which the NAACP says is illegal under federal law less than 90 days before an election. However, state officials say it's legal under state law.

Early voting already has begun in this critical swing state, where officials and the courts have tussled over voting hours and other issues of poll access.

"This is our Selma, and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

Barber said the challenges represent an example of voter suppression against African-Americans.

The group's lawsuit zeroes in on Cumberland, Moore and Beaufort counties, where thousands of voters' names have been challenged. In most cases, mail sent to an address is returned as undeliverable, which county boards can accept as evidence that the voter no longer lives there.

According to the lawsuit, the boards of elections in the three counties didn't give those voters the legally required chance to prove their eligibility.

The lawsuit says the state law, and the removals, are in violation of the National Voter Registration Act. It also asks to restore the names of voters who already have been removed. An emergency hearing was scheduled for Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem.

Among those challenged in Beaufort County was a 100-year-old black woman, Grace Bell Hardison, who uses a post office box for mail. She learned about the challenge from a list in the local newspaper, said her nephew, Greg Satterthwaite. Her options were to go to a hearing – she leaves her home only once a month – or sign a form, get it notarized and have someone attend the hearing for her.

"Her first reaction was 'I can't vote? I can't vote?'" Satterthwaite said. "She was really upset."

Said Hardison, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit: "I'm still going to vote. I always vote. When it comes time to vote, I always vote, and I'm going to vote when it comes time."

The man who filed that and many other challenges in the county, Shane Hubers, said he abandoned it after learning of Hardison's situation. He said he told county election officials he'll do the same if people have an explanation: "I've not raised a fuss. I'm not vindictive."

The people filing challenges in Cumberland and Moore counties say they're volunteers with the Voter Integrity Project. The group's director, Jay Delancy, says he wants to reduce the potential for voter fraud.

Individuals have challenged 4,500 voters in Beaufort, Cumberland and Moore counties in August and September, with more than 3,900 of those in Cumberland County, State Board of Elections director Kim Westbrook Strach said in a letter to the NAACP.

However, it's not clear how many of those people have had their registrations struck from the rolls. Elections officials and the challengers say few people attend the hearings over their challenges; many have moved and haven't updated their registration, while others have died.

"We know that most, if not all, of those people are honest people who are on the rolls and don't know it," Delancy said.

The NAACP says the challenges have disproportionately affected black voters, who comprise 53 percent of registered voters in Belhaven, where all the Beaufort County challenges were filed, and more than 65 percent of challenges.

Cumberland County's election director said similar figures there would not be made available. The elections director in Moore County said she was compiling those figures this week.

People can register to vote and vote on the same day during early voting, which continues through Nov. 5. However, if someone removed from the rolls tries to vote on Election Day, they cast a provisional ballot that the county board of elections must then decide whether to count.

Kellie Hopkins, director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections, said she was concerned someone who moved to a different address within the county may not be able to cast a regular ballot on Election Day.

In Moore County, elections board director Glenda Clendenin said last week that she was determined that such ballots be counted: "If I don't have any evidence that they've left the county, I will recommend to my board that the ballot be counted."


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  • Samuel Tyler Nov 1, 2016
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    A family member of mine was removed. She has been voting for 20 plus years, but this year she wasn't listed on the voter database and she is white....hhmmm

  • Jim Dunn Nov 1, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    It's the voters responsibility to keep their registration current. That means updating your address when you move just like you are legally required to for your drivers license. And when you update that address, DMV will update voter registry.

    And don't tell me poor people don't have ID. All government social services are required to verify proper government identification prior to authorizing assistance. If you allow illegals to enter and get a drivers license in this country, then you need to verify identification at the polls. No big deal.

  • Arinzo Williams Nov 1, 2016
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    When you look at the numbers and the ethnicities of those removed from the voting roles why is it always more black Americans being removed. If you make up 20% of a counties population but yet 60-70% of the people wiped off the voter roles are black Americans you would actually have me to believe all those people are voting illegally? That is flat out disgraceful.
    Ever since the SC overturned that attempt at suppressing the vote. Republicans have done everything they could to eliminate early voting. Just imagine if there was no early voting and everyone voted do really think it could be done in one day? No it couldn't.

  • Susan Eaton Nov 1, 2016
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    Here is a lovely article from a local paper near Bellhaven and referencing ~29 challenges in Bellhaven. It was enlightening. Of the 29, 8 were already in the process of being removed as inactive, one was someone never on the voter rolls to be removed, several (12 I believe) were current active voters where the campaign had sent their bait to an incorrect address. Same kind of clear explanations. In the end, the effort cost tax dollars to correctly verify that the election system was working properly. Oh yes, and not a single one was dead.

  • Andrew Martinson Nov 1, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    If that's not one of the most asinine comments you've ever read, read it again!

  • Andrew Martinson Nov 1, 2016
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    As a life-long Democrat in our wonderful state, I have to say, with all due respect to Rev. Barber; black residents of North Carolina need to get educated to the process and put out a little real EFFORT to vote. You've whined and whined about needing to provide an ID to prove you are who you say you are and now you're whining about the RULES again. RULES are RULES no matter which party you affiliate with.

    I'm sick of the Reverend whining about "black this" and "black that". We're all NORTH CAROLINIANS. COMPLY with the rules or stay home.

  • Roger Chance Nov 1, 2016
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    Barney is spot on. I monitored elections in 15 states and Puerto Rico from 1998 to 2007. The attempts at fraud are invariably democrats. Especially in 2000 in FL, where I saw many minority voters attempting such. Many times they were unaware of being used to do so.

  • Barney Gravel Nov 1, 2016
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    Fred it is not voter suppression, it is legally preventing FRAUD. By condoning voter fraud you do not have the right to call yourself an American citizen, as you do not value the constitution. The only way your minority, ( I do not mean that in terms of race), viewpoint can be invoked is through voter fraud, executive orders and judicial activism. This is why an anti-establishment candidate won the nomination of one of the major political parties. There would have been two anti-establishment candidates, if there had not been the old Democrat standby of fraud, with the super delegates.

  • Evan Morris Nov 1, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    A perfect example of race baiting. Pathetic.

  • Karen Orndorff Nov 1, 2016
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    What a goofball.