Election officials who don’t care for voters

by the YES! Weekly Staff

If anyone in North Carolina still believes that the voter bill signed by Gov. Pat McCrory is anything but a shallow attempt at electoral engineering, it’s possible that they haven’t done the reading.

The proposed and enacted measures in the Republican efforts to change voting laws, in concert with the crusading ideologues appointed to control local elections boards across the state, make it plain that the thrust of the changes is to deter and discourage Democratic-friendly constituencies such as college students, the elderly, the disabled and the poor — many of whom happen to be African American — from voting. It’s a naked attempt to consolidate the GOP’s position following their successful power grabs in 2010 and 2012.

While the generals are devising the war plan in Raleigh, the shock troops have been deployed to local communities where elections are won and lost. In Pasquotank County, the board of elections has challenged the right of an Elizabeth City State University senior who has regularly voted in local elections to run for city council on the basis that he has not established residency.

Meanwhile, in Watauga County, the newly minted Republican board voted to eliminate a precinct at Appalachian State University by consolidating it with two others to create one of the largest precincts in the state, in the process creating inconvenience for university students who don’t drive.

In the midst of these shenanigans, it’s impossible to read Forsyth County Board of Elections Chairman Ken Raymond’s expressed interest in closing an early-voting polling place at Winston-Salem State University for the 2014 state legislative elections as anything but voter suppression.

Raymond reportedly said his concerns were prompted by complaints of election law violations. Democratic partisans and many editorialists repeatedly chant the meme that there is no evidence of election fraud to justify voter ID and other efforts to restrict the franchise. Unfortunately, past handling of elections in Forsyth County has knocked out a leg or two under that argument.

Winston-Salem State University student Christopher Mickens told YES! Weekly that he inadvertently voted in the East Ward Democratic primary in 2009 in which his fellow student Derwin Montgomery defeated Joycelyn Johnson. The problem was that Mickens was a resident of the Northeast Ward at the time. The university declined repeated requests by YES! Weekly to provide a housing roster to confirm that the hundreds of students who voted for Montgomery were indeed campus residents in the East Ward as opposed to off-campus residents in the remaining seven wards of the city. Acceding to that request would have provided confidence in the election and would not have violated student privacy more than a year after the election. (The university’s handling of the matter should not tarnish Montgomery’s reputation; there’s no evidence he did anything wrong.)

As for the two major political parties, there’s room for improvement on both sides. Democrats should stop downplaying the importance of voter integrity. And Republicans should realize that voters will remember their hostility where it counts: at the polls.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration .