Editorial: Practical recommendations to boost voter turnout

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 -- Statewide, and in North Carolina's counties, the spotlight should be on getting more people participating in elections and fixing some of the fundamental, systemic problems that make it difficult for many to vote.

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CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018; Editorial # 8257
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

In 2016, a presidential election year, 3 million North Carolinians of voting age -- more than 2 million who were actually registered to vote -- failed to cast ballots. Two years earlier, with a hotly contested statewide U.S. Senate race along with legislative elections, not even half of the state’s registered voters showed up at the polls. This is no mark of distinction.

The folks at Democracy North Carolina, an organization devoted to making it simpler for all people to vote and get more of them to the polls, rightly say we need to step back from hyped and unproven claims of voter fraud and the ongoing investigations into allegations of foreign influence and hacking in our elections. The focus needs to be much more local and basic.

Statewide, and in North Carolina’s counties, the spotlight should be on getting more people participating in elections and fixing some of the fundamental, systemic problems that make it difficult for many to vote.

“From the Voter’s View: Lessons from the 2016 Elections,” the report recently released by Democracy N.C., offers documented examples of structural shortcomings and administrative problems that made it difficult, or in too many cases, prevented some eligible voters from casting ballots. It was no small effort, involving more than 1,100 non-partisan poll monitors stationed at more than 300 precincts in 64 of the state’s counties.
The report comes on the heels of the State Board of Elections’ April 2017 Post-election Audit Report – a look into a variety of allegations of voting irregularities in 2016 – that concluded: “Even assuming all ineligible ballots identified in this report were cast for the prevailing candidate, no race – statewide or local – would have had a different outcome.” So, as a problem, it was a small one.

The Democracy N.C. report focused on the practical and offered up common-sense recommendations for practices and procedures that will make it easier for officials to administer elections and for citizens to vote.

They are obvious and basic:

  • Make sure curb-side voting for the handicapped is available and clearly marked along with assuring elections personnel are properly trained to appropriately assist voters.
  • Locate polling places that are the most, not least, convenient, to voters. At N.C. State University, the polling place was moved to a more remote location where voters faced some of the longest lines in the state – with waits of five hours to vote.
  • Expand the number of polling sites, and operation hours, during early voting periods to accommodate voters in a more efficient manner.
  • Provide more funding from the state for counties to upgrade their voting equipment and introduce new voting machinery and other technology on a more gradual basis – testing in low turnout elections or select precincts, prior to broad use.
  • Better train poll workers on policies and elections procedures. Develop a “code of conduct” for poll watchers and other outside observers (those representing campaigns, political parties, and other non-election official groups) to promote respect and courtesy as citizens go about voting.

The report represents an important public service that didn’t cost taxpayers a penny. Legislators, elections and local officials should embrace its common sense recommendations to enable more North Carolinians to participate in the most important obligation our democracy offers – the right, and obligation, to vote.

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