In the wake of July’s federal appeals court ruling overturning the majority of North Carolina’s 2013 election laws, the state’s 100 local election boards, all comprised of one Democrat and two Republicans, have had to file their own respective election rules with the state, and critics are calling them equally as egregious as the original laws.
The original state laws had strict voter identification requirements and heavily limited early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration. The three panel federal appeals court had determined that North Carolina’s Assembly purposely enacted these laws with racially discriminatory intent “in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting.”
But local election boards are now discovering ways around the appeals court’s mandates. For example, the court ordered all counties to restore early voting from 10 to 17 days, but placed no other requirements on how those 17 days should be regulated, such as how many polling locations must be available or what hours they must be open. As a result, areas such as Lenoir County in the rural eastern portion of the state where 40 percent of the population is black will have a singular early voting location in a county stretching over 403 square miles.
Other counties have re-instituted the 17 day early voting period, but severely cut the hours they will be open, with some completely eliminating operations on Sundays, a day that African American communities have historically gone together to the polls.
While 66 counties have submitted bipartisan proposals to the state Board of Elections, 34 boards could not come to a unanimous decision and most submitted two separate proposals by the respective Republican and Democratic members.