State News

Federal officials to monitor voting in five NC counties

Posted November 3, 2016 9:06 a.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2016 4:19 p.m. EDT

 Election sign.

— Amid heightened concerns about access to the polls, federal monitors will be in five North Carolina counties on Election Day to to observe polls.

State elections director Kim Strach notified officials in Wake, Cumberland, Robeson, Mecklenburg and Forsyth counties on Wednesday that federal elections observers would be at precincts to ensure voting rights laws are followed.

Although North Carolina has had federal observers for every presidential election this century – they were in Wake and Alamance counties in 2012 – the observers next week coincide with a lawsuit over voter purges.

Private citizens in North Carolina are allowed to challenge other voters' registrations in their own counties, and several have used that law to challenge thousands of voters in Cumberland, Moore and Beaufort counties in the past few weeks. Many voters had their registrations revoked by local election boards in response, some without even knowing about it.

After state election officials refused to intervene, the state NAACP filed a lawsuit to stop the purges, arguing they violate state and federal laws that protect voter registration in the 90 days before an election. The U.S. Justice Department filed a brief in that case saying it agrees with the NAACP.

A federal judge is expected to rule this week on the NAACP's request to restore the names of people purged from the voter rolls.

President Barack Obama addressed the voter purges during a Wednesday afternoon rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Chapel Hill. He talked about one of the plaintiffs in the NAACP lawsuit, Grace Bell Hardison, a 100-year old Belhaven woman whose registration was challenged by a citizen and revoked by her local election board before she was even notified about it.

"Now, Grace got her voter registration reinstated, and you better believe she's going to vote," Obama said. "But this 100-year-old woman wasn't alone in being targeted. The list of voters Republicans tried to purge was two-thirds black and Democratic. That didn't happen by accident. It's happening in counties across this state."