Mail-in ballot rule chaos in North Carolina is hurting black voters

At least two voters in Greensboro, North Carolina, part of Guilford County had no idea their ballots were sitting in that pile.

Vincent Gager, a 48-year-old black man, and his 83-year-old father, Nathaniel, mailed his ballot on Sept. 4, wanting to vote by mail not to come into contact with Covid-19. A month later, no one had a vote that listed their ballot as “pending therapy” – meaning there was something wrong with them that prevented them from accepting.

The issue was the information of his witness, an aspect of North Carolina’s voting rules that has been confused between efforts to facilitate voting amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

“I’ve been doing it this way for years,” Gager said of his father’s ballot. “I sign it. I’m his son. I’m a witness to it. And no one has ever said his vote won’t be counted.”

Matching signature or missing envelope may result in discarded mail-in ballot. But voting “healing” is the process where voters can correct these mistakes, to make sure their votes are counted. States have different “cure” methods – some automatically notify voters about problems, while other states force voters to actively follow-up with election officials.

A federal judge on Wednesday restrained the North Carolina State Board of Elections from correcting the signature of a missing witness in an affidavit signed to voters or correcting a witness’s signature in a disclaimer but determined that other types of incomplete witness information, such as missing or incomplete addresses Can be. Without a new poll.

North Carolina – where individual voting began early Thursday, with long lines across the state – has been at the center of partisan battles over voting in recent years. The law is bound in court to bring the ID issued by the government to the voters for voting. For the past few years, racial gimmicks have been in the national spotlight when congressional maps drawn by the Republican-led legislature were in question. The maps were dropped in 2019 following a state court ruling.
The season continued this year: Democrats filed lawsuits to ease mail-in voting restrictions, citing the epidemic, and a compromise was proposed after Republicans abruptly resigned in protest at the State Board of Elections.

Wednesday’s court ruling means, however, that Gageers’ ballots will still be in limbo until they are contacted by the county with further instructions.

Guilford County has the lowest acceptance rate in the state, with the remaining.4% voting classified as “pending” or “pending cure”, meaning those votes have not yet been accepted. Thirty-four percent of those votes were returned by “pending” black voters.

Statewide, black voters account for only 16% of total ballot returns, but they have about 40% of the vote labeled as “pending” or “pending cure”.

Gager thinks what happened to his ballot has something to do with efforts to suppress black votes in the state. “They’re just doing it openly, intentionally,” he said.

But the North Carolina NAACP president and member of the Guilford County Board of Elections, the Rev. T. Anthony Spears said the problem is the need for more voter education as voters turn to unprecedented numbers of mail-in voters – one Democrat, in particular, favors, while Republicans encourage voters to go to the polls as usual.

“My belief is that the reason this is happening is because minorities, people of color, can’t use the absentee voting process or don’t use it, don’t use it and aren’t cultured.” Said Spears. “His education needs to be completed as he is able to go through some of the difficulties presented by the absentee ballot.”

According to figures posted on the North Carolina State Board EF election website, black voters cast just 2,460 votes out of 26,514 mail-in ballots in the March 3 presidential primary.

“African Americans have used the early voting cycle disproportionately, but not absent ballots.” “Many of them, for the first time, are going through that process.”

But it’s not just voters who are dealing with confusion about voting therapy. County election officials around the state were asked to vote with witness deficiencies due to the absent ballot fix process and the legal dispute over the deadline.

In a memo in early October by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, the county board was asked to block the ballot process for missing witness information, in order to avoid confusion when related matters are pending in numerous courts.

On Thursday, the North Carolina Board of Elections emailed the county’s election director and board noting that it would take time to finalize guidance based on the ruling, and advised county election officials that if the voter’s ballot status was “accepted” or “anything other than” Accepted-listed if listed, “” Voters will be contacted as soon as possible if there is an issue in their ballot box if action is required. “

The state also said that voters with outstanding iency can vote individually as soon as possible, and the remaining ballots will be canceled.

“I blame the state board,” Spears said. “People are losing confidence. People are losing confidence in the election cycle.”

Marshall Cohen of CNN contributed to this report.