North Carolina board of elections won’t fight for pollwatcher checks

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina State Board of Elections will not fight a recent ruling by the state rules committee blocking its proposed restrictions on party-appointed poll watchers this fall . But the council pledged Friday to do everything possible to help county election officials maintain a safe and orderly voting environment and deter voter intimidation.

What do you want to know

  • Proposed changes to code of conduct for partisan election observers rejected by state rules review panel
  • Election officials said conduct violations in the May primaries prompted proposed changes to the rules
  • The proposed changes focused on the proximity of observers to voting machines and the power of election officials to remove disruptive observers.
  • Electoral operations across the country have been scrutinized since the 2020 presidential election

The state Rules Review Commission — a 10-member panel appointed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly — last week rejected two temporary changes to the rules that would have more clearly defined the code of conduct for partisan election observers. . The Elections Commission said more than a dozen reported conduct violations during the May primaries prompted the proposed changes.

The board, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, had unanimously approved the temporary rule changes – one prohibiting observers from standing too close to voting machines or poll books where they could seeing ballots marked, and another granting election officials the power to remove spoilers. observers who attempt to enter restricted areas or harass voters.

Although the state Board of Elections could have appealed the commission’s decision in court or resubmitted a revised proposal, Chairman Damon Circosta said Friday he would instead offer advice to county Boards of Elections and county election officials to ensure they understand their authority.

Seventy days before Election Day in a tightly divided state, Circosta said the council does not have “the luxury of going back and forth with the commission or the courts to ensure that our reasonable rules are put into effect. in place before the start of the vote”.

“The Rules Review Commission lacks the expertise and authority to determine how best to maintain order at the ballot box,” Circosta said. “It is our duty to voters to protect their right to vote, and it will be protected.”

The board’s decision comes as North Carolina prepares for several close races, including a high-profile contest for the U.S. Senate, two races for the state Supreme Court and several crucial legislative elections that will determine whether the Republicans get the few seats they need to override the Democratic Party. governor’s veto.

State law allows political parties to appoint precinct-specific and general poll watchers to monitor election proceedings from designated areas inside the polling place on Election Day and during early voting. one-stop shop. Observers can report their concerns to a precinct official, but they are prohibited from interacting with voters, disseminating information, or interfering with the duties of poll workers.

North Carolina Republicans, some of whom have close ties to former President Donald Trump, have been the leaders of opposition to proposed rule changes since July, arguing that tougher restrictions on poll watchers could undermine the integrity of elections in a crucial state. The Republican National Committee and the NC Republican Party wrote to the rules commission urging it to reject the changes.

Trump’s debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent prompted thousands of his supporters to scrutinize election operations nationwide, popularizing the practice of poll monitoring and leading several states to reassess their rules.

Paul Cox, associate legal counsel for the board of elections, said the state’s guidelines for election observers “are not models of clarity,” which had prompted the board’s bipartisan collaboration.

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