NC Values Letter to NC State Board of Elections

Dear State Board of Elections;

I write to oppose the rule change you have proposed to 08 NCAC 01.0106 which would expand the emergency powers of the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections "to clarify that a catastrophe arising from natural causes includes a disease epidemic or other public health incident that makes it impossible or extremely hazardous for elections officials or voters to reach or otherwise access the voting place or that creates a significant risk of physical harm to persons in the voting place, or that would otherwise convince a reasonable person to avoid traveling to or being in a voting place."

The objections of the NC Values Coalition to the temporary rule are as follows:

  1. The rule is vague and would give an excessive amount of discretion to the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections to determine what incidents and scenarios would trigger emergency powers.  For example, there is no specific definition for what "makes it impossible or extremely hazardous for elections officials or voters to reach or otherwise access the voting place".  There is no clarity around what set of circumstances would make it "impossible" or "extremely hazardous".  What is impossible or extremely hazardous to one person is not to the next person. In addition, there is no definition for or list of circumstances that would clarify what the term "significant risk of physical harm" means. What constitutes a significant risk of physical harm to one person does not constitute a significant risk of physical harm to another. What metrics are used to determine that the risk is significant?  Infection rates of the current population?  As you know, the infection rates for COVID-19 in North Carolina vary widely by county, with rural counties seeing very little or no infection at all. Is a one-size-fits-all solution warranted for all the counties in the state, when only two or three counties are the epicenters for the disease in the state? Even in those counties, the infection rates are low.
  2. The temporary rule places broad powers to determine the nature and type of election North Carolina has this fall in the hands of an unelected government bureaucrat who has no accountability to the voters.  Emergency powers should not be given liberally in a democratic society, and they certainly should not be given to unelected bureaucrats.
  3. Any voters who are uncomfortable with going physically to the polls to vote already have a remedy-absentee voting or drive-through voting. There is no need to force all voters to use vote-from-home voting when our current system already allows those who are sick or cannot get to the polls to vote from home.
  4. The biggest reason not to adopt this temporary rule is that our current absentee ballot system is rife with opportunities for fraud.  The Board of Elections has allowed thousands of voters to remain on the voter rolls, although postcard tests prove they are either deceased or have moved.  In Mecklenburg County in 2018, the County elections board mailed absentee ballots to voters who had moved out of state, even when the voter listed their current address as being out of state.  The County failed to check to see that the voters were qualified to vote in North Carolina and mailed them ballots (which were actually voted). See attached SBOE memo dated August 14, 2019. Without your State Board or the County elections boards verifying that voters who vote by absentee ballots that are requested under the current system, it seems like a disaster in the making to automatically mail ballots to everyone on the voter rolls currently. The State Board of Elections has a duty to protect the integrity of the elections, and there is no way to do so with vote-from-home ballots.  Anyone who receives the ballot can vote it, and there are not enough investigators in China to investigate whether every ballot was lawfully cast.
  5. Only the General Assembly has the power to change the way in which we vote in North Carolina. This Board has no business voting to mandate absentee balloting for every voter in the State. If the manner of elections are to be changed (whether in a time of emergency or not), it should be done by the General Assembly, which is convening on April 28th, 2020. We have plenty of time for an emergency voting bill to be voted on by the General Assembly.


Sincerely,

Tami L. Fitzgerald
Executive Director, NC Values Coalition

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