11:30 a.m. August 13, 2013

Fight Over Voting Clampdown Spreads To NC's Local Election Boards

The big news nationally yesterday for my home state was our sweeping new voter restrictions getting slapped with three lawsuits before the ink on Gov. Pat McCrory's signature was even dry.

What didn't make the news, but might affect voting just as much in North Carolina, were the meetings of our newly minted local board of elections.

This isn't usually something people give much thought to: a few old party hands talking to elections staff in a side room, making sure there's enough ballot paper. It's usually dull even for us wonks.

But local boards of election actually have a lot of power. In NC, the governor appoints the state board, and they appoint the locals. That means that if there's a Republican governor, every local board has a Republican majority, even in the state's more liberal areas.

Over in Asheville one of the new Republican members wanted to remove the local elections director because he blamed her for his party losing a close county commissioners race. Even his colleagues balked, and things, at least for now, are running as usual.

But at my alma mater, Appalachian State, it was all cussing and shouting. The college has a large student body, and it's in the kind of swing county opponents of the GOP regime are pinning their electoral hopes on.

The new board, over the Democratic member's loud objections, eliminated two polling places, including the one on campus, and piled the town's three precincts into one. This new super-duper-precinct will have three times the voters of any of the others, but the same number of places to cast a ballot: just one.

In the future, however, things will at least be quiet, because the board also banned spoken public comment.

Back channel chatter

  1. On the hits just keep on coming, from Elizabeth City (where I was born), the new local board of elections "accepted a legal framework for disqualifying students living at Elizabeth City State University from voting in local elections."

    Notably, ECSU is a historically black college, with about 2,500 students. That's not huge, but it's enough to make a difference in a local or state legislature election if they're mobilized.

    The board also ruled (2-1, of course, with the lone Democratic member dissenting) that a student there can't run for the City Council, because they don't believe he qualifies as a "permanent resident."