Voting law changes explained

by Miriah Hamrick
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Staff photo by Miriah Hamrick 

Derek Bowen, election compliance specialist with the NHC Board of Elections, answers questions about new changes for student voters, photo ID requirements, election day voter challenges and more during a League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear luncheon at McAlister’s Deli on Monday, March 24.

Voters sought clarification of the local impact of election law changes during a March 24 luncheon hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear.

Changes stem from H.B. 589, passed in July 2013, which ushered in a number of new requirements for voting processes from registration to Election Day. Many changes will be enforced for the 2014 midterm election in November.

A handful of lawsuits have been filed against the legislation, including one by the League of Women Voters of North Carolina on grounds that requiring photo ID to vote, limiting early voting and eliminating pre-registration and same-day registration for early voting constitutes racial discrimination. The case will be heard in federal courts in 2015. 

Luncheon guests voiced some of the same concerns while also questioning other changes. 

Derek Bowen, election compliance specialist with the New Hanover County Board of Elections, offered explanations about local implementation.

Bowen said starting in 2014, the precinct official will ask voters if they have one of the appropriate ID sources for voting in 2016. If a voter states that he or she does not have one of the ID types, the voter will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of no photo ID. If a voter signs this document, it will be considered a public record.

Attendees questioned changed rules for voter challenges, in which a citizen’s right to vote is disputed by a fellow voter.

Previously only voters registered in the same precinct could challenge one another on Election Day. Starting in 2014, a voter can challenge another voter on Election Day if they are registered in the same county.

Bowen said Election Day challenges are rare because they are difficult to plan. Both the challenged and the challenger must be present.

A new increase in poll observers could make challenges more likely. 

Appointed by the chair of each county political party, observers watch for errors that could affect the party’s interest.

“Starting with the 2014 primary, two regular observers and one at-large observer are allowed for each party and the at-large observers can roam the county’s precincts,” Bowen said.

Bowen assuaged concern about diminished early voting time from 17 to 10 days, saying the county will exceed requirements for available hours despite the cut.

The number of hours in the 2014 primary must be equal to or more than the hours provided during the 2010 primary. Bowen said the county board of elections added 100 additional hours at five sites for the 2014 primary.

Bowen the county board of elections has been contacted by a number of civic organizations for similar events to help clarify the new legislation.

This story has been updated from the original version.


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