In a matter of weeks, thousands of North Carolina voters will head to the polls unaware of what they’ll need to vote – and election officials will be hard-pressed to help them. Ironically, conservative Republicans who promoted voting changes could suffer the most. The excitement of the Republican presidential primary will motivate new voters to show up, but newbies are the most likely not to have followed the twists and turns of election rule changes. Will they be helped or frustrated at the polls? At this point, it’s up to Gov. Pat McCrory. Here’s why. The new law cuts out safety-net provisions for new voters and dumps a load of confusing regulations on poll workers. That combination is making it hard for election officials to do their jobs.
… We sympathize with the election officials’ concerns. It’s difficult to get poll workers to consistently deliver a simple question to voters. It’s even harder to uniformly administer a law when provisions that helped voters are eliminated and inconsistent regulations are added.
It turns out DMV examiners also have trouble uniformly administering the new law. They were supposed to provide free IDs, but qualified voters received different treatment depending on which DMV office they visited. As a result, the General Assembly had to add a complex new procedure for voters showing up at the polls without an “acceptable” ID.
The new procedure is called the “reasonable impediment exception.” Whether it works depends heavily on poll-worker training and voter education, which are both underfinanced and behind schedule. We’re at risk of a major meltdown at the polls in March.