The chaos of North Carolina’s mail-in voting rules is hurting black voters

At least two voters in Greensboro, North Carolina, part of Guilford County had no idea that their ballot papers were on this pile.

Vincent Gager, a 48-year-old black man, and his 83-year-old father, Nathaniel, mailed their ballots on September 4th. They wanted to vote by post so as not to come into contact with Covid-19. Over a month later, neither man had any idea that their ballot had been listed as a “pending cure” – which meant there was something wrong with them that would prevent them from being accepted.

The problem was with witness information, an aspect of North Carolina’s voting rules that has gotten confused amid efforts to make voting easier in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve been doing this for years,” said Gager of his father’s ballot. “I’ll sign his. I’m his son. I’m his witness. And no one ever said his ballot wouldn’t count.”

A mismatched signature or a missing envelope could result in ballot papers being received in the mail thrown out. But the “cure” of ballots is the process by which voters can correct these mistakes to ensure their votes are counted. States have different “healing mechanisms” – some automatically notify voters of problems, while other states force voters to proactively inquire with election officials.

A federal judge on Wednesday prevented the North Carolina state electoral authority from allowing voters to “heal” or repair a missing witness signature with a signed affidavit, but found other types of inadequate witness information, such as missing or incomplete Address that can be cured without casting a new ballot.

North Carolina – where the first face-to-face votes began Thursday with long lines across the state – has been at the center of partisan voting over the past few years. A law that makes voters obligated Government-issued ID for the surveys is tied up in court. In recent years Racial Gerrymandering was in the national spotlight when the Congress cards drawn by Republican lawmakers were challenged. These cards were thrown away following a ruling by the State Court in 2019.
The turmoil continued this year, with Democrats citing the pandemic and Republicans abruptly filing lawsuits on the State Board of Elections to ease restrictions on mail-in voting resigned in protest after a settlement was proposed in one of the lawsuits.

Wednesday’s court ruling, however, means the Gagers’ ballots will remain pending until they are contacted by the county with further instructions.

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Guilford County has one of the lowest adoption rates in the state. 3.4% of the ballot papers are classified as “pending” or “pending” which means that these votes have not yet been accepted. Forty-four percent of the “outstanding” ballots were returned by black voters.

Nationwide, black voters make up only 16% of total election results, but they make up nearly 40% of ballot papers that are marked as “pending” or “pending”.

Gager believes what happened to his vote had something to do with efforts to suppress the black voice in the state. “You’re just doing it outside on purpose,” he said.

However, Rev. T. Anthony Spears, president of the NAACP in North Carolina and a member of the Guilford County’s electoral committee, said the problem lies in the need for better voter education as voters switch to mail-in voting in unprecedented numbers – a Democrats in particular have voted in favor, while Republicans continue to encourage voters to vote as usual.

“In my opinion, the reason minorities, people of color, did not access or use the postal voting process is because they are not used to and have not been cultivated for it,” Spears said. “A lot of education needs to be done as they will be able to handle some of the difficulties that postal voting brings with it.”

According to data posted on the North Carolina State Board of Elections website, black voters only cast 2,460 of the 26,514 postal ballots in the March 3 presidential primary election.

“African Americans used the early voting cycle disproportionately, but not absentee voting,” added Spears. “Many of them are going through this process for the first time.”

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But it’s not just voters who are facing confusion about ballot healing. County electoral officials across the state were asked to set aside ballot papers with flawed witnesses as the legal battle over the postal voting procedure and deadlines shook the process.

In an early October memo issued to counties by the North Carolina state electoral authority, county boards were asked to stop processing ballots with missing witness information “to avoid confusion while related matters were being held in a number of courts are pending “.

On Thursday, the North Carolina electoral committee emailed the county electoral officers and officers stating that it would take some time to finalize guidelines based on the ruling and notified the county election officials with that the voting slip status of a voter is not classified as “accepted” or “accepted”. accepted-cured, “” you will be contacted as soon as possible if there is a problem with your ballot that requires action by the voter. “

The state also said voters with a pending deficiency could vote in person early and the pending vote will be canceled.

“I blame the State Board,” Spears said. “People are losing confidence. People are losing confidence in the election cycle.”

CNN’s Marshall Cohen contributed to this report.

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