N. Carolina commission rejects restrictions on poll watchers

Aug 25, 2022, 10:15 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2022, 10:16 am
FILE - Early voters line up to cast their ballots inside the South Regional Library polling locatio...

FILE - Early voters line up to cast their ballots inside the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. After receiving more than a dozen reports of conduct violations by party-appointed poll watchers during the May primaries in North Carolina, the state elections board tightened regulations for precinct observers on Tuesday, Au. 16, 2022, to prevent partisan interference in the November general election. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s Rules Review Commission has rejected two temporary rule changes recommended last week by the state Board of Elections that would have tightened restrictions for partisan poll watchers in the November elections.

The decision follows a unanimous elections board vote to more clearly outline the code of conduct for party-appointed election observers in response to more than a dozen reported conduct violations during the state’s May primaries.

The proposed rules would prohibit poll watchers from standing too close to voting machines or pollbooks where they could view marked ballots or confidential voter information. Elections officials would have authority to remove observers who try to enter restricted areas, interact with voters or disrupt election proceedings.

Appointed by political parties as their eyes and ears inside voting facilities, poll watchers are permitted by state law to take notes from designated areas and report concerns to a precinct manager.

Though the elections board approved tightening restrictions on poll watchers with bipartisan support Aug. 16, the decision required final approval from the rules commission — a 10-member panel appointed by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

The commission rejected the board’s proposal Thursday, arguing in its staff opinion that the rules were “not reasonably necessary” and “ambiguous and unclear,” legal counsel William Peaslee wrote.

Commission Chair Jeanette Doran did not respond to calls seeking further explanation of the commission’s reasoning.

The decision comes as North Carolina is preparing to vote this fall in several tight races, including a high-profile U.S. Senate contest, two state supreme court races and several critical state legislative elections that will determine whether Republicans gain the few seats they need to nullify the Democratic governor’s veto.

Elections board spokesperson Patrick Gannon said the board believes these rule changes are necessary to “provide better guidance immediately to poll workers and partisan observers” and “protect the integrity of the voting process.” The board has not yet decided its next steps, Gannon said, but may consider modifying and resubmitting the rules to the commission or appealing the decision in court.

The Rules Review Commission is a panel little known outside of state government circles. Commissioners decide whether to approve or reject temporary or permanent agency rules — details that lawmakers have delegated to government departments.

Approval can be based on whether the rules are clear and unambiguous and whether the state agency proposing them has the authority to carry them out.

A 2020 lawsuit filed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper challenges the commission’s composition, saying he has no meaningful control over the panel, which undermines the executive branch’s authority to establish policy. The governor believes he should be able to appoint a majority of its members. A hearing in the lawsuit is set for this fall.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, the commission had blocked roughly 200 rules from taking effect in the previous two years, according to Cooper’s attorneys.

The Republican National Committee and the North Carolina Republican Party wrote a letter to the commission earlier this week arguing that the proposed rules “do not ensure the integrity of the election process” and instead “restrict the ability of North Carolina voters to observe and report election fraud.”

Former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election results were fraudulent have prompted thousands of his supporters to scrutinize elections operations nationwide.

A state board survey of county elections directors in late May found violations in 15 North Carolina counties, where officials observed poll watchers harassing voters and attempting to enter restricted areas to view confidential voting records.

Gannon said the issues identified in the survey “were not limited to any particular political party’s observers” but demonstrated a need for tighter rules statewide.

The elections board had pushed for temporary rule changes this election cycle with the hope that the commission would approve them before in-person early voting begins Oct. 20, said Paul Cox, associate legal counsel to the state board.

___

Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/H_Schoenbaum.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - New Hampshire Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc speaks during a debate Sept. 7, 20...
Associated Press

Another shift for NH GOP Senate candidate on 2020 election

HUDSON, N.H. (AP) — Don Bolduc isn’t making a full about-face, but the Republican nominee for Senate in New Hampshire can’t seem to stop shifting his position about whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. The retired Army general claimed during his primary campaign that the White House race was stolen from former President Donald […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Teen sought in ambush outside school that killed 1, hurt 4

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police are seeking a 16-year-old youth in last week’s ambush shooting outside a Philadelphia high school that killed a 14-year-old and wounded four other teenagers after a football scrimmage Police said Tuesday that the 16-year-old is wanted on active arrest warrants for a charge of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Estonian PM urges not to give in to Putin’s nuclear threats

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonia’s prime minister said Tuesday that the West must not give in to Moscow’s nuclear threats or premature peace proposals but stand firmly in support of Ukraine as the invaded country fights to rid its occupied territories of Russian soldiers. Kaja Kallas, who has led Estonia’s government since last year, told […]
2 days ago
A protester carries a piece of wood simulating a weapon during a protest demanding the resignation ...
Associated Press

Haiti at breaking point as economy tanks and violence soars

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control last month just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. Gunshots rang out as protesters blocked roads with iron gates and mango trees. Then Haiti’s most powerful gang took it a step […]
2 days ago
This image made available by NOIRLab shows a plume of dust and debris blasted from the surface of t...
Associated Press

Smacked asteroid’s debris trail more than 6,000 miles long

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The asteroid that got smacked by a NASA spacecraft is now being trailed by thousands of miles of debris from the impact. Astronomers captured the scene millions of miles away with a telescope in Chile. Their remarkable observation two days after last month’s planetary defense test was recently released a […]
2 days ago
In a Friday Jan. 8, 2016, photo, Flint residents shout while protesting outside of Flint City Hall ...
Associated Press

Key moments in Flint, Michigan’s lead-tainted water crisis

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan judge’s order dismissing charges against seven people in the Flint water scandal is the latest development in a crisis that started in 2014. That was when the city began taking water from the Flint River without treating it properly, resulting in lead contamination. Here’s a look at some key […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
N. Carolina commission rejects restrictions on poll watchers