by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
I wrote last year about persistent problems with both the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) and county boards of elections limiting election transparency:
The SBE worked to suppress election observers and limit transparency in 2020, a pattern of behavior that continues today. There was also a problem with county elections boards limiting transparency by restricting what observers and other members of the public could see. Again, that problem persists.
Despite the occasional good news on election transparency, the SBE’s actions over the past several years demonstrated that they are committed to limiting election observers. Some of the problems from the SBE and county boards include:
A bill introduced in the General Assembly, House Bill 816, would address two problems with current election administration practice and make our elections more transparent. It is sponsored by representatives Grey Mills (R – Iredell), Ted Davis, Jr. (R – New Hanover), Harry Warren (R – Rowan), and Jeff Zenger (R – Forsyth).
The bill has two sections. The first makes it clear that observers can be at voting locations (both early voting sites and precinct polling places) before they are open for voting:
The rules shall permit the observers appointed under G.S. 163-45 to witness, but not participate in, the set up of each voting place prior to voters entering the voting place to vote.
The bill’s full title is “An Act to Authorize Certified Poll Observers to Observe Opening Procedures At Early One-Stop Voting Sites and On Election Day,” which helps clarify that the intent of the bill is that the language in the bill covers all days of early voting.
The bill also amends the law on absentee (mail and early) ballot counting procedures to make it clear that county boards of elections must make “documents associated with that count” available to the public “upon announcement of the result of the count.” That is 7:30 PM on election night unless a delay in closing some precincts requires the announcement to be pushed back.
The change would require county boards to publicly post absentee mail and one-stop tabulation tapes for public in-person viewing on election night.
House Bill 816 is a good step toward greater transparency in election administration.