by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
I wrote in May of 2021 about how the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) was trying to illegally suppress the number of election observers parties may place at early and election day polling places:
[I]t is dismaying that the SBE is seeking to change the maximum number of voting place-specific observers from two every four hours to two per day…
While the SBE claims that the proposed limit on observers is just part of a set of changes that “would provide clarity in election processes for county boards of elections, as well as political parties,” it would make our elections less transparent…
The SBE’s proposed rules change for election observers is not only a shift in policy towards less transparency, but it is also contrary to state law.
The good news: after a beatdown from testimony in a hearing on the proposed rule change, the SBE backed down from its attempt to subvert the law on election observers.
SBE General Counsel Katelyn Love got an earful from speakers at a May 2021 hearing on the board’s attempt to suppress election observers.
The bad news: New evidence reveals that SBE General Counsel Katelyn Love was already aware that their 2021 attempt to suppress the number of election observers was illegal before they even started it. An investigation by the Voter Integrity Project discovered that Love had sought to reduce the number of party election observers to two per polling place before the 2020 election:
The three-email paper trail (click here to download all three messages) of this illegal policy began with an October 9, 2020 email sent to all 100 county election directors and then to NCGOP Chief Counsel, Philip Thomas.
The poorly written directive said, “the Chair of each political party in a county may designate two precinct-specific observers to attend each one-stop site.”
That first attempt by Love to suppress election observers was eventually stopped by action from a Trump campaign attorney:
[Trump Campaign attorney and former SBE employee Heather] Ford picked up the phone and called the policy’s author, Kaitlyn Love and fought to resolve the problem. She finally had to read the law aloud to Love in order to sway her. Ironically, Love’s job as Agency Counsel meant she is paid by NC taxpayers to implement and enforce our election laws.
Ford followed up their conversation with an email to Love, restating the law and suggesting she forward the correct policy to all 100 counties, which Love did do.
That was October 29, too late to do anything about early voting in 2020 and less than an hour before the deadline for parties to submit their lists of election observers to their county boards of elections.
Love confirmed in her clarifying memo to county election boards (second page) that parties can name more than two observers to polling places. She even included the relevant section of the law (163-45(a)) in the memo. So it is incredible that she would allow the SBE to seek to subvert that law just a few months later.
These episodes reveal two disturbing facts. First, SBE General Counsel Katelyn Love, whose job it is to advise election boards on election law, was apparently ignorant of election law.
Second, even after her ignorance of that law was dispelled, she later either pushed for or allowed others to push for, changes in election regulations to subvert that law.
Either way, Katelyn Love’s continued service as SBE General Counsel is a disservice to North Carolina’s voters.