North Carolina: Partisan attacks are undermining the efforts of election workers | Rusty Jacobs/North Carolina Public Radio

Annie Risku thought she had a lot to celebrate on election night, back in 2020. She had just taken over as Wayne County’s director of elections that July. And despite a pandemic, the state experienced historic voter turnout. In Wayne County, Risku’s office successfully processed more than 10 times the typical number of absentee-by-mail ballots. “We were so focused on COVID, preparing for the pandemic, keeping the voters safe, keeping their hands clean, keeping them from breathing on one another,” Risku said with a wry laugh during a recent interview in her downtown Goldsboro office. Then came the wave of intense skepticism about the elections process, including from voters in this county that Donald Trump carried. She says it caught her a little off-guard. “We had, after 2020, a lot of individuals who didn’t trust that we had actually counted all the votes,” Risku explained. One woman demanded to enter her office to watch Risku count ballots, even though no such thing was happening or ever happens. Ballot counting is conducted according to state law in a prescribed manner and in public view. For example, county boards begin processing mail-in ballots at weekly meetings starting five weeks before Primary and General Election Day. And county boards hold public meetings to process ballots during the 10-day canvas period after Election Day, which culminates in the certification of official results.

Full Article: Partisan attacks are undermining the efforts of North Carolina’s election workers | WUNC

North Carolina counties prepare voting systems for early voting | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

North Carolina counties finished testing their voting machines and election reporting systems last week in preparation for voting, which begins in person on Thursday ahead of the May 17 primary. Voting in modern elections relies on a series of computers to count and report votes. North Carolina counties completed the voting machine review, called “logic and accuracy” testing, and a mock election to make sure results uploads were running smoothly by April 21, according to the state’s election calendar. “We conduct these tests to ensure that tabulation and results reporting go smoothly on election nights, and so county board staff are comfortable with the process,” said Pat Gannon, spokesperson for the N.C. State Board of Elections. That North Carolina combines its testing of logic and accuracy with mock elections to prepare for elections is a great practice, according to Mark Lindeman, director of Verified Voting, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to elections security.

Full Article: NC counties prepare voting systems for early voting – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina: Local election chief threatened by Republican leader seeking illegal access to voting equipment | Nathan Layne/Reuters

A local Republican Party leader in North Carolina threatened to get a county elections director fired or have her pay cut unless she helped him gain illegal access to voting equipment, the state elections board told Reuters. The party official, William Keith Senter, sought evidence to support false conspiracy theories alleging the 2020 election was rigged against former U.S. President Donald Trump. The previously unreported incident is part of a national effort by Trump supporters to audit voting systems to bolster the baseless stolen-election claims. Senter, chair of the Surry County Republican Party, told elections director Michella Huff that he would ensure she lost her job if she refused his demand to access the county’s vote tabulators, the North Carolina State Board of Elections said in written responses to questions from Reuters. Senter was “aggressive, threatening, and hostile,” in two meetings with Huff, the state elections board said, citing witness accounts.

Full Article: Exclusive: Local election chief threatened by Republican leader seeking illegal access to voting equipment | Reuters

North Carolina: Modems removed from voting machines in five counties | David N. Bass/Carolina Journal

The N.C. State Board of Elections recently removed analog modems from voting equipment in five counties, a move that has drawn criticism from the N.C. House Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus — 25 House members chaired by Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort — has sought for months to inspect voting equipment to check for internet connections, most recently in Durham County. News that the state elections board has removed modems from voting equipment in Watauga, Graham, Macon, Montgomery, and Swain counties drew a stinging rebuke in a statement from the caucus, which claimed that the elections board “has stonewalled and denied access to voting equipment, as well as even acknowledge the existence of modems in North Carolina voting machines.” The counties in question had used M100 ballot scanners created by the voting machine manufacturer Election Systems and Software, or ES&S, and purchased from the N.C.-based company Printelect. According to a Dec. 10 memo from the elections board, the M100 machines contain “obsolete analog modem hardware” that requires a connection to a telephone. On Nov. 9, state elections director Karen Brinson Bell hosted a Microsoft Teams virtual meeting with officials from the five counties to inform them that Printelect would be conducting preventative maintenance on the machines and would remove the modems. As of mid-December, all modems had been removed from the machines.

Full Article: Modems removed from voting machines in five N.C. counties – Carolina Journal – Carolina Journal

North Carolina: Watauga County Board of Elections releases statement on modems in voting machines | Watauga Democrat

It has recently come to the attention of the Watauga County Board of Elections that modems were removed from ballot-counting machines used by the Board in county elections, the board announced in a Dec. 9 press release. Before being removed, these modems had never been used. Given the importance of a fair and transparent election process, the board stated it wished, with this announcement, to make relevant information promptly available to the public. Since 2002, the Board has used M100 ballot scanners to count ballots. The Board voted unanimously to purchase this equipment. The scanners were purchased from Printelect, a North Carolina company. The Board owns 31 M100 ballot scanners. They have been used in every election since their initial purchase. On Nov. 9, Karen Brinson Bell, the Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, hosted a Microsoft Teams meeting with election staff from the six counties that still use M100 ballot scanners. In addition to Watauga, these counties include Graham, Macon, Moore, Montgomery, and Swain. Director Bell informed them that Printelect would be undertaking annual preventative maintenance and would remove any modems found in the machines.

Full Article: Watauga Board of Elections releases statement on modems in voting machines | Local News |

North Carolina Elections Board to review results of new election audit tests | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

The N.C. State Board of Elections will consider the results of testing a new kind of post-election audit in North Carolina this week. The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday to certify the results of November’s municipal elections. As part of that process, the board reviews data and reports from the county and state election officials to make sure they ran they elections fairly and accurately. This time, the board has an extra tool for reviewing results from the 17 counties that test-ran “risk-limiting audits,” or RLAs, last week. RLAs are “tabulation audits,” or the kind of post-election check using statistical analysis to make sure the machines that read ballots and count votes did so accurately. The counties participating in the pilot are Beaufort, Brunswick, Buncombe, Carteret, Cleveland, Granville, Harnett, Henderson, Johnston, Mecklenburg, Scotland, Stokes, Transylvania, Union, Watauga, Wayne and Wilkes. State and county election officials are looking to RLAs to increase public confidence in elections and to improve the efficiency of election administration, though county election officials told Carolina Public Press more work remains before RLAs are likely to achieve either goal in North Carolina. The state board ran the audit pilots to find ways it can improve the process before moving forward, according to spokesperson Pat Gannon. North Carolina follows in the footsteps of Colorado, Virginia and Rhode Island, which require RLAs after elections. Another dozen states are piloting RLAs or have made them an option. The audits are recommended by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and a bevy of other state, federal and good-governance organizations. Depending on the RLA report state election staff presents on Tuesday, the board could decide to run another round of pilots in more — or all — counties in the spring primary elections, Gannon said. Alternatively, the board could decide to take no further action.

Full Article: NC Elections Board to review results of new election audit tests – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina counties piloting new system for auditing elections | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

Election night results are in, and in many cases the outcomes are clear, but the votes are not final. Before that can happen, county boards of election must go through a series of postelection procedures before certifying the election. This year, 15 counties are adding to their workload by testing out a new way to check election results, called “risk-limiting audits.” This new process could make post-election checks more efficient, more secure and improve confidence among voters. The N.C. State Board of Elections first tried to pilot these audits in March 2020, but the spread of COVID-19 put those plans on hold. Now, with this year’s municipal elections, the state is putting a years-in-the-making plan into action, “with the hope that RLAs will be instituted in all counties in future elections,” according to the State Board of Elections. But there’s a long road from here to there. Risk-limiting audits, as a mathematical concept, have been around for over a decade but have only begun to get broad attention by states in the last several years. Colorado, Rhode Island and Virginia require these audits by law, while another dozen states have pilot or optional risk-limiting audit programs. Most took years to develop the processes and laws to implement risk-limiting audits. North Carolina is not following a legislative path to put the audits in place. Instead, counties are completing their regular post-election procedures, including the current statutorily required sample audit, before certifying their election results. Then, in the time between their own certification and the state issuing final approval of the results, the 15 counties will run the additional risk-limiting audits.


Full Artic le: 15 NC counties piloting new system for auditing elections – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina Republicans aren’t fooling anyone with dig at Durham County elections | Raleigh News & Observer

Despite Republicans’ claims over the last year, instances of voter fraud are incredibly rare. Maybe North Carolina Republicans haven’t gotten the memo. On Thursday, state representative Jeff McNeely (R-Iredell) and a handful of other Republican state House members who call themselves “the Freedom Caucus” said they would select one of North Carolina’s 100 counties to inspect their voting machines and determine whether they were connected to the internet during the 2020 election. They “randomly selected” Durham County — a Democratic stronghold with large Black and Latino populations. To this point, Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina have mostly resisted participating in sowing doubts about elections, unlike their colleagues in other states. Such talk threatens to undermine confidence in future elections, when the reality is that multiple safeguards ensure that elections are secure and accurate. The State Board of Elections randomly audited 200 North Carolina precincts from both the 2020 Election Day and early voting, and found only 13 precincts had discrepancies between human and machine counts; each of these precincts had three or less votes affected.

Full Article: NC Republicans need to give up election fraud claims already | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina: GOP lawmaker backs down from threat to force way into Durham County elections office | Laura Leslie/WRAL

A group of Republican House members announced Thursday that they are launching a fraud investigation into North Carolina elections and said they would start by inspecting voting machines in Durham County, with or without the cooperation of state or county election officials. Rep. Jeff McNeely, R-Iredell, conducted a “random drawing” of a county name out of a hat, and Durham County was chosen. Perhaps coincidentally, Republicans have accused Durham County of voter fraud in the past, especially in 2016, when a late vote tally there swung the governor’s race in favor of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over then-incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Citing “many, many millions of accusations” of “machine tampering and votes being switched because of modems,” McNeely said at a news conference that lawmakers intend to see for themselves whether the machines have modems in them. Voting machines in North Carolina do not have modems and are not connected to the internet, by state law.

Full Article: GOP lawmaker backs down from threat to force way into Durham elections office ::

North Carolina: Right-wing legislators want to inspect Durham County’s voting machines. Election officials say ‘no.’ | Lynn Bonner/NC Policy Watch

A group of right-wing North Carolina House members calling themselves the Freedom Caucus want to crack open Durham County’s voting machines to check for vote manipulation despite no evidence of irregularities. Members of the group announced their intentions at a news conference Thursday morning, and said they were picking a county at random. Durham is a heavily Democratic county and voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in a state that Donald Trump won. “We started an investigation as to whether there were any foreign objects or modems or anything,” said Rep. Jeff McNeely, an Iredell Republican. Later on the House floor, Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Durham Democrat, said members of the Freedom Caucus are not getting into the county’s voting machines. “You are not welcome in Durham County,” he said. In an email, Durham Board of Elections Director Derek Bowens said no one can open the machines. “No one will be permitted to inspect voting equipment in Durham County as per statute and direction from the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections,” he wrote.

Full Article: Right-wing legislators want to inspect Durham’s voting machines. Election officials say ‘no.’ | The Pulse

North Carolina legislators must release the money to secure elections | John Shallcross Jr. and Chip Futrell/Charlotte Observer

As Republican and Democratic county election board members, we are pleased to report that North Carolina voters should have confidence in our election systems. But maintaining secure election systems requires a concerted year-round effort in today’s world — and we need continued support from voters and public officials to accomplish that task. Across North Carolina new voters are registering daily and their data must be protected, along with yours. New voting machines are being tested, purchased and retested. Old software and backup systems are being replaced with modern systems that resist cyberattacks. Our operations must be continually audited to detect vulnerabilities. Fortunately, federal funds under the bipartisan 2020 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) have already been sent to North Carolina to finance this effort. But those funds must be released (appropriated) in the state budget that legislators are now debating. As county election officials, we understand the importance of releasing this money because it has a tangible impact, in small and big ways, on our ability to do our job — to protect voters and to maintain a fair, accessible and secure voting system. Given the attention election integrity has received nationally, it would be tragic to withhold these funds.

Full Article: Legislators must release the money to secure NC elections | Charlotte Observer

North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn falsely suggests elections are ‘rigged,’ says there will be ‘bloodshed’ if system continues on its path | Felicia Sonmez/The Washington Post

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) on Sunday falsely suggested that elections in the United States are “rigged” and said there will be “bloodshed” if the country’s electoral system continues on its current path. Cawthorn, a freshman lawmaker and pro-Trump star of the far right, made the remarks during an event at the Macon County Republican Party headquarters in Franklin, N.C., on Sunday night. “The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn’t matter if our votes don’t count,” Cawthorn told the crowd, according to a video of the event posted by the county party on its Facebook page and circulated on Twitter by a Democratic congressional staffer. “Because, you know, if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place — and it’s bloodshed.” Cawthorn suggested that he was prepared to take up arms against his fellow Americans if necessary to combat voter fraud. There is no evidence that widespread fraud took place in the 2020 election. … About a minute earlier in his remarks, Cawthorn was holding a shotgun that he signed as part of a raffle conducted by the county Republican Party.

Full Article: Rep. Madison Cawthorn falsely suggests elections are ‘rigged,’ says there will be ‘bloodshed’ if system continues on its path – The Washington Post

North Carolina Officials say new voting audits offer trust and transparency in elections | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

This fall, North Carolina will pilot a new kind of postelection audit, the gold-standard method to ensure the candidate declared the winner in a race actually received the most votes. The action is the first step in a likely yearslong process of improving the state’s postelection audit strategies.  Currently, the state uses a “sample audit,” whereby election officials hand-recount two random precincts to make sure the results are right. For most elections, North Carolina’s sample audits count far more ballots than is necessary to be confident that the election results are accurate, creating a significant and unnecessary burden on election officials. For very close elections, the state’s current sample audit may recount too few ballots to be highly confident in checking the results. Risk-limiting audits were designed to right-size this problem, what N.C. State Board of Elections Chair Damon Circosta referred to as an “optimization” of the system. A risk-limiting audit randomly samples ballots from across voting methods. Election officials hand-count the sample and then use an equation to see how likely it is that the paper ballots show a different outcome than the computer-counted results. If the ballots show a potentially different outcome, a bigger sample is pulled. The process is repeated using progressively larger samples. If it looks as if the paper ballots aren’t backing the electronic outcome, an entire recount occurs.

Source: Officials say new voting audits offer trust and transparency in elections – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina makes long-awaited election system updates, sending data to the cloud | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

By the end of the summer, all 100 county boards of elections in North Carolina will be rid of the computer servers that hold voter registration data. The information will be stored in the cloud instead. This is an early step in what will be a yearslong and nearly $3 million process to upgrade state and county election systems to improve security, usability and efficiency, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections. The state will upgrade its voter registration and back-end data management, which are essential for running elections but little seen or understood by voters. The changes will not affect voting machines or the election equipment that makes, scans and counts ballots. Originally designed in 1998 and put in place statewide in 2006, North Carolina’s current election information management system is made up of a network of data servers in the state office and every county, woven together by a network of computer programs. That was “almost another geological era of cybersecurity risk management,” according to John Sebes, co-founder and chief technology officer at the nonprofit Open Source Election Technology Institute. Back then, election administrators were not worrying about computer hacks from foreign nations or even criminals looking to make a buck. “We have to recognize it’s not just the technology front that’s evolved so much; it’s the threat,” Sebes said. The scope of the projects shows how election administration has evolved since the turn of the century. Running elections now requires handling ever more data managed through increasingly complex voting technologies, all while protecting against the kinds of cybersecurity threats that challenge major corporations and the federal government.


Full Article: Sending data to the cloud, NC makes long-awaited election system updates – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina: Records suit against elections board over federal voter fraud probe can continue | Tyler Dukes/Raleigh News & Observer

A North Carolina judge ruled Monday that a nearly two-year-old lawsuit by a coalition of media organizations against state election officials over records connected to a secretive Trump administration voter fraud probe can continue — at least for now. The public origins of the case date back to the summer of 2018, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina dropped a set of sweeping subpoenas on state and county election boards demanding documents on every registered voter in the state going back years. Complying with the subpoenas would have required election officials to turn over millions of pages of records just days before the midterm election. Amid pushback, the U.S. Attorney’s Office quickly agreed to extend the deadline for production. But the demand also narrowed in scope with little explanation. Months later, the State Board of Elections quietly issued guidance to county boards to produce a much smaller trove of documents — this time focusing on about 800 specific voters. Voter registration data is public in North Carolina. But when a reporter requested the documents that election officials eventually turned over to federal investigators, the state refused to release them. They also refused to say why, noting they were “prohibited from providing a reason.” Agencies are required under North Carolina law to cite specific exemptions when denying requests for public records. So in September 2019, a coalition of media organizations, including The News & Observer, WRAL News and The Washington Post, filed suit against the State Board of Elections and their counterparts in Wake County, arguing they were “knowingly and intentionally” violating the state’s open records law.


Full Article: Secret Trump voter fraud probe: Records suit can continue | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina GOP 2020 election audit plan focuses on voting machines | Will Doran/Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina Republican politicians hoping to conduct their own audit of the 2020 elections don’t want to resort to legal action to try to force the State Board of Elections to let them have their way, they said Thursday. The lawmakers could try to force their will on elections officials by issuing subpoenas, for instance. But Rep. Keith Kidwell, a Beaufort County Republican who leads the far-right Freedom Caucus in the N.C. House of Representatives, said he’d rather not. “We honestly don’t want to have to go that route,” he said. “I think a spirit of cooperation is all we seek.” The News & Observer reported Wednesday that state elections officials, behind the scenes, have been blocking the Freedom Caucus in its efforts to take apart voting machines that were used last year. Caucus members want to look for illegal, internet-connected modems that may have been inserted into the machines to let someone remotely change vote counts. But they also admit they have no evidence that any such modems exist. “I’m very hopeful and very confident that there’ll be nothing,” Kidwell said. But now that the elections board won’t let them open the machines, Kidwell and the Freedom Caucus have begun questioning whether state elections director Karen Brinson Bell or others are trying to hide something. So on Thursday morning, they called a press conference.

Full Article: NC GOP 2020 election audit plan focuses on voting machines | Raleigh News & Observer

North Carolina House Freedom Caucus stymied in voting machine probe | David N. Bass/Carolina Journal

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, is blocking attempts by the N.C. House Freedom Caucus to inspect voting machines for possible irregularities. Republicans are crying foul. “What we actually seek to show the public is that the equipment in North Carolina is not a problem,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, at a press conference on Thursday, July 15. “We seek transparency in the election process. The Freedom Caucus believes that every legal vote should be counted but not a single illegal vote should be counted.” The Freedom Caucus — 25 House members and chaired by Kidwell — is seeking to inspect two voting systems in randomly selected precincts to ensure modems are not inside, which could allow for election results to be changed remotely. Brinson Bell responded to Kidwell with a blistering letter denying the request. Her office subsequently contacted all county boards of elections directing them to not allow Freedom Caucus members to inspect voting equipment. “The State Board has received no credible evidence that the certified results are not accurate, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have stated that the 2020 general election in North Carolina was conducted fairly,” Brinson Bell wrote. “We will not allow misinformation about voting systems or any other aspect of elections to dictate our priorities in administering elections.”

Full Article: House Freedom Caucus stymied in voting machine probe – Carolina Journal – Carolina Journal

North Carolina must expand options for blind voters, federal judge rules | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

Blind voters in North Carolina will now have permanent access to an online voting system previously reserved for overseas and military voters, a federal judge ruled June 15. The ruling also expands other accessibility requirements that will have impacts beyond accessible at-home voting. For Holly Stiles, a lawyer for Disability Rights NC who represented the plaintiffs in the case, this is a huge win. “This is actually truly remarkable, that the absentee voting process is going to be fully accessible for the first time in our history,” she said. Before, in order to vote absentee-by-mail, blind voters in North Carolina had to request assistance, often from another person in their home. This meant voters with visual impairments had to disclose their votes to another person, which is a lack of privacy, and had no way to confirm the ballot was accurate to their wishes, which is a lack of security.

Full Article: Federal judge: NC must expand options for blind voters – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina lawmakers try again to remove literacy test, a Jim Crow relic, from NC constitution | Laura Leslie/WRAL

North Carolina’s constitution still requires a literacy test for voting, a Jim Crow-era tactic used to keep Black voters away from the polls. State House lawmakers are trying again to ask voters to remove it. Article VI, Section 4 of the state constitution requires that “Every person presenting himself for [voter] registration shall be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language.” In 1965, the federal Voting Rights Act banned the use of literacy tests for voting. Gaston County challenged that provision in court, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the VRA in 1969 and banned North Carolina from using the tests. In response to the ruling, state lawmakers approved an amendment to remove the requirement from the state constitution. It was put on the ballot in 1970, but North Carolina voters defeated it. So, it’s still there.

Full Article: Lawmakers try again to remove literacy test, a Jim Crow relic, from NC constitution ::

North Carolina: Ex-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell served at home near Asheville with $1.3B Dominion Voting lawsuit | Joel Burgess and William Cummings/Asheville Citizen

After evading attempts for weeks by a civil process server that included being “pursued over state lines,” ex-Donald Trump lawyer Sidney Powell was served with a $1.3 billion lawsuit at her Biltmore Forest home, near Asheville, according to recently filed court papers by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion filed the defamation lawsuit against Powell Jan. 8 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. But attempts to officially serve the Texas-based attorney with the summons took until Jan. 28, said attorneys for the company. “Powell evaded service of process for weeks, forcing Dominion to incur unnecessary expenses for extraordinary measures to effect service, including hiring private investigators and pursuing Powell across state lines,” according to a Feb. 9 answer to Powell’s request for more time to respond to the complaint. She is being sued over her false claims that the company, which manufactured electronic voting machines used by some districts in the 2020 election, changed votes for then-President Trump to votes for then-President-elect Joe Biden.

Full Article: Lawyer Powell served in NC with Dominion Voting lawsuit | Charlotte Observer

North Carolina: One GOP legal claim failed in 2020 but could change how future elections are run | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

Republicans around the country turned to an untested legal theory to challenge changes to state election laws during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent national election results. The theory, called the independent state legislature doctrine, would vest more authority in state legislatures to set rules for federal elections with fewer checks by other state bodies like courts or board of elections.  North Carolinian Republicans used the theory, based on a strict reading of the U.S. Constitution’s elections clause, to challenge almost every stage of election governance. In the end, these efforts failed to change the results of the election. But they fanned the flames of a constitutional argument that could reshape the way states create rules for federal elections. The elections clause made its appearance in North Carolina’s elections when state House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate leader Phil Berger sued the State Board of Elections in September. The board had settled a separate lawsuit, pending state court approval, with a Democratic-backed group that would temporarily change some state election laws like allowing a longer window for by-mail ballots to be delivered. Moore and Berger argued in both state and federal courts that the Elections Board couldn’t actually enter into such an agreement, and a state court couldn’t ratify it, in part because neither had the authority to change state laws under the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Full Article: One GOP legal claim failed in 2020 but could change how future elections are run – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina: Despite More Absentee Ballots, 2020 Election Had Lower Rejection Rate | Michael Falero/WFAE

North Carolina election officials knew there would be difficulties during the 2020 election, with the pandemic and a historic rise in absentee-by-mail voting. But new data show these obstacles didn’t lead to a higher rate of rejected mail ballots. Turn back the clock to North Carolina’s primary in March 2020, and the rate of rejection for absentee-by-mail ballots was nothing to be proud of: 9.1%. It might have been seen as a bad omen for the general election in November. But new data from the State Board of Elections show at most 2.4% of all absentee-by-mail ballots were rejected. That number doesn’t mean each one of those voters didn’t end up voting successfully, and the true rejection rate could be lower. For example, a voter could have received a damaged ballot and called their county elections board to ask for a new one. The old ballot would still count as rejected, but the voter would receive a new ballot to vote. In all, 993,648 absentee-by-mail ballots were accepted with no problems, and 7,947 ballots were accepted after voters fixed them through the state’s ballot curing process. Karen Brinson Bell, executive director for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, believed the low rate of rejected ballots this year is the result of proactive efforts by election officials around the state.

Full Article: Despite More Absentee Ballots, NC’s 2020 Election Had Lower Rejection Rate | WFAE 90.7 – Charlotte’s NPR News Source

North Carolina state senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump’s defeat | Travis Fain/WRAL

A North Carolina senator suggested Tuesday that the president might suspend basic liberties to overturn an election that he believes, without evidence, was stolen. Sen. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, paraphrased on his Facebook page comments that retired Gen. Thomas McInerney made earlier this month on a conservative talk show. Among other things, McInerney suggested President Donald Trump declare a national emergency, invoke the Insurrection Act and suspend habeas corpus. Steinburg told WRAL News on Tuesday evening that he wasn’t endorsing the idea, just “putting out there options that others say still remain on the table,” though he later said he’d be on board with it. In an extended harangue, Steinburg also made it clear he believes the recent presidential election was stolen and that Trump is the victim of a conspiracy to which multiple countries, the media, U.S. government agencies, officials and judges are either a part or turning a blind eye. “There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about,” he said. “I’m not nuts. … I’m not a conspiracy theory person. I don’t like them. I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.” Steinburg then offered, unprompted, to take a psychiatric evaluation. He said the CIA and FBI both know there’s a coup d’etat going on in the country but won’t do anything about it.

Full Article: NC senator OK with suspending civil liberties in wake of Trump’s defeat ::

North Carolina: Protests, recounts for state’s chief justice election results | Danielle Battaglia/Charlotte Observer

North Carolina’s next Supreme Court chief justice remains undecided and likely will stay that way until at least Dec. 18. Incumbent Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, filed 87 protests across the state and contends that thousands of North Carolina votes were wrongly disqualified. It’s unclear how many of Beasley’s protests remain outstanding but she has filed 48 appeals for those that have been dismissed. Her opponent, Justice Paul Newby, the Republican candidate filed 14 protests and 12 appeals. Newby likely will succeed Beasley after leading the race with 401 votes following a statewide machine recount that concluded last week. Beasley also demanded a hand-to-eye recount that began Monday and is scheduled to finish Dec. 14. Beasley filed protests throughout the state alleging that some county board of elections offices had made errors when reviewing ballots after election law changes went back and forth in federal and state courts after the election had already begun. Those changes included extending the number of days that ballots would be accepted following the election.

Full Article: Protests, recounts for NC’s chief justice election results | Charlotte Observer

North Carolina: No decision: Recount ends without determining state’s chief justice | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

Late Wednesday night, Forsyth County completed its recount in the race for the chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court. It was the last county to cross the finish line in  process that was supposed to be completed a week earlier. Off camera in the livestream of the county’s election warehouse, someone said, “Bye, guys. See you at the second recount.” Much to the chagrin of election officials — and reporters — around the state, that joke will come true, as the race for the chief justice of the state Supreme Court remains undecided, possibly for weeks to come. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat whose term ends on Dec. 31, currently trails her opponent, Republican Paul Newby, by 401 votes, or eight-thousandths of a percent out of the almost 5.4 million votes cast in the race. Even if Beasley loses her seat, Democrats retain 4-3 control of the state Supreme Court. The chief justice position holds power through a variety of duties in the state’s court system. The role is responsible for appointing other judicial leaders, including commission members, three-judge panels for certain cases and the director and assistant director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. The chief justice also designates the chief judge of the Court of Appeals.

Full Article: No decision: Recount ends without determining state’s chief justice – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina: Federal appeals court backs voter ID law | Travis Fain/WRAL

A 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously reversed a lower court’s ruling on voter ID on Wednesday, paving the way to require photo identification in the state’s next elections. The panel of three judges said the lower court made numerous errors and “abused its discretion” in blocking the state from requiring photo ID during the November elections, a requirement voters wrote into the North Carolina constitution in 2018. U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs blocked implementation a year ago, pointing in part to past evidence of racial discrimination in North Carolina and a previous federal court decision to block a 2013 voter ID law as discriminatory. The 4th Circuit judges acknowledged in their opinion Wednesday that there is “a long and shameful history of race-based voter suppression in North Carolina,” but they said courts must presume legislatures act in good faith when laws are passed. “The outcome hinges on the answer to a simple question: How much does the past matter?” the judges said in their opinion. “A legislature’s past acts do not condemn the acts of a later legislature, which we must presume acts in good faith.” The judges also said Biggs’ decision to block voter ID during the past elections was riddled with “fundamental legal errors.”

Full Article: Federal appeals court backs NC voter ID law ::

North Carolina Republicans Calling For Change To State Board Of Elections | Coleen Harry/WFAE

The 2020 general election is notable in many ways. Turnout was a record 75% in North Carolina. A little more than 1 million people voted by mail-in ballots. But it could be the election that prompts state lawmakers to change who’s in charge of administering future elections. As co-chair of the N.C. Senate Elections Committee, Sen. Paul Newton, intends to propose an oversight board for the State Board of Elections. “I think we’re going to be looking at an oversight board that examines the Board of Elections to make sure they’re following the law,” said Newton, a Republican who represents parts of Cabarrus and Union counties. He said the State Board of Elections sidestepped the legislature in August when it signed off on a settlement that gave a six-day extension to how long mail-in ballots would be accepted. Instead of a Nov. 6 deadline, the board agreed ballots could be accepted until Nov. 12 as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3. “An elections board does not have the power to change state law. It shouldn’t,” Newton said. “Do we pass a law that says you need to follow the law? Well, in a sense, that’s what we’re left with.” The General Assembly approved the Nov. 6 date in June as part of legislation that made several accommodations to deal with the pandemic, including making it easier to vote with mail-in ballots. The legislation was lauded as an example of compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

Full Article: NC Republicans Calling For Change To State Board Of Elections | WFAE 90.7 – Charlotte’s NPR News Source

How are North Carolina counties going to recount millions of ballots? | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

North Carolina is conducting a statewide recount, spurred by one of the closest elections the state has ever seen. The Republican candidate for chief justice of the state Supreme Court, current Associate Justice Paul Newby, leads Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley by 406 votes, or seven-thousands of a percent. In the span of a few days, every county in North Carolina will recount each of the more than 5.5 million ballots cast in this election, which saw record-setting turnout. While voters cast those ballots over the span of weeks, counties have until Nov. 25 to finish the second count. “It’s a very methodical process that needs to be done in a very condensed time frame,” said Robert Inman, Haywood County’s elections director. Inman, like a fifth of North Carolina’s election directors, is doing his first recount with paper ballots. Until the end of 2019, 21 counties were using touchscreen voting machines that stored votes on memory cards. During the 2016 recounts, these counties simply had to rerun those memory cards through the computer, which yielded the same results.

Full Article: How are NC counties going to recount millions of ballots? – Carolina Public Press

North Carolina chief justice race still tight as counties finish count | Gary D. Robertson/Associated Press

Candidates in North Carolina’s still-undecided races for Supreme Court chief justice and attorney general awaited final official results from just a few remaining locales. Two counties on Monday already adjusted previous tallies due to administrative errors. Current Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Paul Newby remained in an extremely close election. A statewide recount in that race was likely, as they were separated by only hundreds of votes after nearly 5.4 million had been counted. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper elevated Beasley, an associate justice, to chief justice in early 2019. Newby is the senior associate justice, joining the court in 2005. As of Monday evening, state results showed Newby 285 votes ahead. Beasley narrowly led over the weekend, after boards in about 90 of the state’s 100 counties completed their canvass of results on Friday. The lead flipped early Monday when the Washington County election board amended the results of its mail-in absentee balloting. Officials there mistakenly had created two records for each mail-in vote, according to the State Board of Elections. The only other county with significant vote totals yet to be counted was Robeson County, whose board was still evaluating late Monday hundreds of provisional ballots cast on Election Day and mail-in ballots received afterward, according to Pat Gannon, a state board spokesperson. The results of about 1,950 ballots cast at an early in-person voting site in Pembroke but inadvertently not uploaded on election night were added to totals early Monday evening.

Full Article: N.C. chief justice race still tight as counties finish count

North Carolina counties finalize elections just past deadline | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press

With good reason, counties can extend the time it takes them to finalize their election results. Seven counties met Monday, and two more will meet Tuesday to do just that. Two counties met to fix significant problems. Robeson County had previously failed to upload the votes from an early voting site, according to a press release by the N.C. State Board of Elections. Robeson County also needs to process 700 provisional ballots and 30 by-mail ballots. This will be the last large batch of ballots that could affect the outcome in the chief justice for North Carolina race. It is the closest statewide race and the only one left in question. At the moment, Republican candidate Paul Newby leads Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley by 231 votes. If Robeson is in line with the rest of the state, only about half of the provisional ballots will be approved, meaning Beasley would have to win about two-thirds of those votes to catch up. The county is expected to finalize its results Monday night. An error in Washington County significantly hurt Beasley, who had held a slight lead. Washington County is using an older voting system, called Unity from the election vendor Elections Systems and Software, which the county has had in place since 2006. The county had an unknown error with the Unity system in which the by-mail votes were counted twice, according to the county’s elections director, Dora Bell.

Full Article: NC counties finalize elections just past deadline – Carolina Public Press