Elections

Four things to know about how NC’s election system works to prevent fraud

Long lines mark first day of early voting in NC in 2016

VIDEO: There were long lines in November at the early voting sites in Raleigh in 2016.
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VIDEO: There were long lines in November at the early voting sites in Raleigh in 2016.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been making claims that this year’s election could be “rigged” in favor of Democrats though widespread voter fraud.

While voter fraud is rare, some Republicans in North Carolina worry that voters won’t be required to show a photo ID at the polls after a 2013 election law was struck down by a federal court.

Here’s a look at how North Carolina’s election system seeks to ensure that only eligible voters cast ballots – and no one votes more than once.

How does the state verify that everyone who registers to vote is actually eligible? Trump recently claimed that non-citizens were allowed to vote in North Carolina in 2008 and could have helped Barack Obama win the state. There’s no evidence that supports the claim.

N.C. election officials use the driver’s license number or Social Security number provided on a registration form to ensure voters are U.S. citizens who are age 18 or older and aren’t convicted felons.

Voters who don’t provide a driver’s license number or Social Security number must show the local elections board a document showing their name and address, such as a utility bill, bank statement or government document. Elections officials will then use that information to look up the person’s eligibility.

Who’s in charge of my polling place on election day, and how did they get the job? The county Board of Elections appoints a chief judge for each polling place. Each county board consists of two Republicans and one Democrat, because the state currently has a Republican governor.

But state law limits who can serve as a precinct judge: It can’t be an elected official, a candidate for elected office, or anyone who holds a formal position in a political party. The judges at each site must include, when possible, one person recommended by each political party. And the law requires that they be people “of good repute, and able to read and write.”

When someone’s vote gets challenged, who decides whether the vote will be counted? For early voting and mailed-in ballots, the county Board of Elections makes the call. On Election Day, the chief judge at the polling place is in charge. The law requires them to administer a sworn oath to the voter that they meet eligibility requirements.

How will election officials prevent voter intimidation tactics at the polls? Anyone campaigning or serving as a poll observer must stay 50 feet from the polling site, and any effort to “obstruct, intimidate or interfere” with voters is illegal. Inside the polls, only poll monitors appointed by political parties are allowed.

The State Board of Elections announced this week that it’s working with law enforcement agencies to ensure the rules are followed.

“Aware of heightened security concerns this election season, the State Board of Elections office has taken steps to ensure the safety of voters, observers and poll workers during the voting process,” the agency said in a news release.

VIDEO: There were long lines in November at the early voting sites in Raleigh in 2016.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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