by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
I wrote on May 4 how the staff at the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) was seeking to make a rules change that would, contrary to state law, limit the number of election observers at early voting sites and election day precinct polling places to two location-specific and one at-large observer per day.
After an outpouring of opposition to the proposed change, it looked like the SBE had backed down this week and reversed the proposed change. There was still some proposed changed language in the rules, however. So, I reached out to Noah Grant, Election Communications Specialist at the SBE, to confirm the SBE’s understanding of what the new language meant about the number of election observers permitted at precincts and early voting locations.
My first email:
To be clear, is it the State Board of Elections’ position under the proposed language that each party can post up to 12 observers (8 precinct-specific and four at large) per precinct polling place during the 13 hours that those polling places are open on election day
My second email:
To follow up on the question I asked yesterday evening about the number of election observers allowed per precinct polling place on election day, is it the State Board of Elections’ position that up to nine election observers (six precinct-specific and three at-large) are allowed per party per one-stop voting location during an eleven-hour weekday of early voting and that up to six election observers (four precinct-specific and two at large) per party per one-stop voting location during a five-hour weekend day of early voting? If the answer to those questions is “no,” then how many observers would be allowed per day under the proposed language?
Grant conferred with the legal/rulemaking folks at the SBE and got back to me this afternoon:
Under the current text of the rule, at-large and precinct-specific observers can be relieved after serving four-hour shifts. That is not changed in the proposal from what is currently in the rule. So yes, on election day, 8 precinct-specific and 4 at-large observers would be able to serve (13 total hours – 6:30-10:30, 10:30-2:30, 2:30-6:30, 6:30-7:30), during an 11.5-hour OS workday you could have 6 total precinct-specific observers and 3 total at-large observers (8-12, 12-4, 4-7:30), and if a county board is open during a weekend day of early voting for 5 hours, then yes you would have 4 total precinct-specific observers and 2 total at-large observers per party per one-stop voting day.
In short, the SBE is on record as confirming that the number of election observers allowed at one-stop early voting locations and precinct polling places will not be reduced under the proposed rules changes being considered at the SBE’s June 29 meeting.