More than 450 North Carolina citizens whose votes would have counted in the 2012 election had their ballots rejected during this year’s primary due to election law changes made last year by the Republican-controlled legislature. Those disenfranchised were disproportionately African Americans and Democrats, lending support to claims that the new law is discriminatory. Those are among the findings of a new report by the voting rights watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, which analyzed provisional ballots cast in this year’s primary. The analysis focused on provisional ballots rejected due to two recent changes in state voting rules: one ending same-day registration and the other requiring election-day ballots to be cast in one’s own precinct. Bob Hall, the group’s executive director, interviewed a dozen of the affected voters to gather more details about what happened. “I was blown away, I have to say,” Hall said at a Sept. 10 press conference outside the state elections board, referring to what he heard from voters whose ballots were rejected.
Take the case of Craig Thomas of Granville County, North Carolina. After serving with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for 18 months, Thomas went to an early voting site in April only to be told there was no record of registration for him — even though he had been registered before being deployed, returned to the same address after his service, and was never notified that his registration was canceled. Under the old law, Thomas could have used same-day registration to register at the early voting site and cast a ballot on the spot. Instead, he had to use a provisional ballot that wasn’t counted.
Then there’s the case of Ashley Gragg of Yancey County, who was assigned to work as an assistant judge at a precinct other than her own on Election Day. Because she was on vacation during early voting, she had to vote on Election Day — but she couldn’t leave her assigned polling place. She filled out a provisional ballot there, but under the new law it didn’t count.
The analysis found that those affected by the changes in the law came from all walks of life: young and old, black and white, men and women, Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. “These are the actual victims of the changes in the law,” Hall said.