The anatomy of a voter suppression omnibus

Gives new meaning to the phrase "battleground state":

There are going to be a lot more poll-watchers in North Carolina next election. Under earlier laws, Election Day poll monitors had to be residents of the precincts they were observing. Section 11.1 of the bill allows each party to appoint an additional 10 poll watchers who live in the same county as the precinct they’re observing.

Similarly, any challenges to a voter or a ballot can now be made by a wider segment of the population. Previously, voters could only challenge other votes cast within their own precinct. Section 20.2 allows a registered voter to challenge a ballot cast within his or her home county, not just his or her own precinct. And any citizen registered to vote in North Carolina can challenge another voter’s registration, regardless of which county either voter lives in, under Section 20.1.

I've seen many on the left put forward the idea that we should all vote absentee, but I believe that would be a mistake. Those polling places belong to all of us, and I'm not about to surrender any ground to right-wing vigilantes who believe they have the justification for challenging another's right to vote. If I see it happening, if I witness a neo-brownshirt going after someone who had the audacity to exercise their Constitutional right and took the time to take part in the Democratic process, it's gonna get ugly.

Comments

I'm with you

The Dems need to make sure they appoint their full slate of poll-watchers and train them. And we need more training about how to deal with the GOP thugs poll watchers who will be present, and will be allowed to roam around freely to challenge and intimidate voters.

This is among the worst provisions of the voter suppression law, and among the most transparent in being for no purpose other than to suppress votes and voters.

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"What I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers." -- Thom Tillis

To much time on my hands...

I've been digging into the new voter suppression laws. Particularly, challenges on the day of voting. In addition to the 2 observers per party, normally assigned by party chairs for each precinct, up to 10 county-wide "at-large" observers can be assigned by party chairs as well. That's 12 per party.

Observers are forbidden to communicate directly with voters in any way. Otherwise, they would risk felony charges for suppression or intimidation. Challenges by observers must be submitted to the chief judge at the precinct at which the challenged voter intends to cast his/her ballot. Observers must identify themselves to the chief judge when they arrive to discharge their duties and must remain at that precinct for no less than 4 hours. If a challenge is heard by the chief judge, the burden of proof is on the challenged voter. An oath is administered if the challenge is overruled and the voter is allowed to cast his/her ballot.

There are procedures for challenges that are sustained, but I won't get carried away now. I'm waiting for some clarifications from the SBOE. I will then offer a more detailed analysis.

However, I haven't found anything specifically on the books concerning legal authorizations (or lack thereof) for anyone other than observers and poll workers when it comes to challenges. It's my hunch that the "neo-brownshirt" is going to have to know that, like observers, he cannot confront any voters directly either. If he does, he would risk felony charges as well. His target is under no legal obligation to answer any demands by anyone other than chief judge, judge or assistants at the precinct. All incidents even remotely construed as harassment, suppression or intimidation should be reported to poll officials immediately.

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

The problem with this:

His target is under no legal obligation to answer any demands by anyone other than chief judge, judge or assistants at the precinct.

Is that I doubt many voters realize this. Hell, there's probably a lot of poll workers who might be confused by an over-zealous watcher.

The state BOE needs to send out some bullet-points clarifying what these vigilantes are allowed to do, and those same advisories need to be posted in more than one spot in each polling place.

Dazed and Confused...

There in lies the heart of the problem. It is often the case that poll workers aren't sufficiently trained beyond their main task at hand. I can't be specific but, while surfing the tubes, I read several complaints of such, shall we say, ignorance. And, by some accounts, chief judges and judges have been deficient as well.

I wouldn't count on the SBOE to be much of a help. If I'm not mistaken, the morons on Jones St. didn't budget any money for voter education. Gee, I wonder why. Also, I posed my questions to Don Wright, General Counsel for the SBOE, early last week. I'm still waiting for a reply – and I'm not holding my breath.

The rules for observers and at-large observers are relatively straightforward. I watched YouTube 2012 training videos for Republican observers and they seemed to cover all the legal pitfalls fairly well. However, voters are pretty much going to have to take responsibility for themselves while standing on line at the polls. And I'm afraid some other entity is going to have to step up and provide the necessary bullet-points you suggest.

I'll keep digging and post all I can. But, some how, word has to get out and reach a much wider audience.

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

One can send a message to a voter

without "directly communicating" with him or her.

Am I correct that the "observers" can freely roam about the polling place?

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"What I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers." -- Thom Tillis

This will seem naive, but

Such a blatant display can easily be construed as intimidation. Anyone who feels threatened by an armed individual, who is not clearly identified as law enforcement, has the right and duty to report the individual to the proper authorities immediately. Considering all of the witnesses on the voting line, only a psychopath would persist in his assholiness.

Also, it's important to distinguish between observers and the neo-brownshirt Steve desscribed above. Observers are officially assigned by the party chairs. The guy lingering about the precinct with the chip on his shoulder is just a schmuck.

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

Agreed but...

The NCGA has ensured that guns can be carried at many polling places. I think that usna77 jas asked more than once if observers can pack heat. It's an interesting question.

But forget that...can people stare me down and look over my shoulder?

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"What I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers." -- Thom Tillis

You lookin' at me...

Those duly appointed observers and at-large observers primarily bent on leveling challenges would, to their best advantage, want to position themselves within the line of sight and sound of poll workers manning voter sign-in and ballot distribution. They are allowed to unobtrusively remain within the voting enclosure (the designated area where actual voting activities are performed), but are not allowed to speak to voters, nor watch voters completing their ballots.

So, no, they can't look over your shoulder while you vote. They can take notes as they observe you completing your ballot, from a reasonable distance away. And if one should feel compelled to stare you down, you should exercise your rights and report the infraction to poll officials immediately. Even if the least bit intimidated. The chief judge has overall accountability for the operations of his/her precinct. The more complaints, the more likely the observer would be dismissed.

I do not know if duly appointed observers and at-large observers can pack heat while they are discharging their duties. And, again, it is important to delineate actual observers from the schmuck with an assault rifle dangling from his neck. Either way, their 2nd amendment rights do not trump your safety. If a gun toting observer gives you the willies, report him/her to poll officials. If it's Rambo out on the street or in the parking lot, call the cops.

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"Let's not be too rough on our own ignorance; it's what makes America great!" - Frank Zappa (6/29/1988)

I was a poll observer in

I was a poll observer in 2012. I spent all day hanging around, talking to people I knew (after they voted) and watching the process. I have a bad feeling that things will be much different in 14 and 16. With observers from anywhere in the county they will head to the precincts with the most Democrats and see how many legal votes they can scare off.

I'm a moderate Democrat.