This past Tuesday on November 5, Election Day, The NC Vote Defenders partnered with Democracy NC and student organizations and took to precincts across Boone and Charlotte.
Prior to Election Day, UNC-Charlotte students encouraged peers to vote using social media, as well as spreading the message around campus on the ground and in the classrooms. At Appalachian State, students made banners, raised signs, and held a rally to encourage people to head to the polls.
However, when youth and students went to the polls, many problems made voting harder than it should be. NC Vote Defenders went to problem precincts, helping voters find their polling locations, directing traffic, and providing information on the new voting laws.
LACK OF ACCESSIBILITY, POOR SIGNAGE, AND POLLING SITES MOVED WITHOUT NOTICE CONFUSE VOTERS IN PRECINCTS MADE UP MAINLY OF PEOPLE OF COLOR AND LOW-INCOME VOTERS
In Charlotte, many issues plagued voters as they sought to participate in the political process. Accessibility problems, poor labeling of polling sites, and blocked roads frustrated and confused voters and made voting much more difficult than it should be. Even worse, polling locations were moved, further confusing voters who had been voting there for years. The NC Vote Defenders found that these problems occurred mainly in precincts who served large populations of low-income voters and people of color.
Charlotte issues included:
- Construction blocking Freedom Drive, the main road in front of Charlotte’s precinct 81, backing up traffic for many miles. Cones set up made the side road, which was supposed to be open to allow cars access to the precint, appear blocked off, as only a small sign directed people to the detour. The precinct had extremely low turnout, with voters complaining that it took over 90 minutes to find the location.
- Filled parking lots at precincts, which required voters to circle the lot multiple times before being able to find a spot.
- Polling locations that were moved to the back of buildings (and, therefore, no longer being in their usual location). These problems were exacerbated by poor signs directing voters to the new locations, and a lack of curbside voting that led to folks driving away in the morning without voting.
EXTREMELY HIGH NUMBER OF PROVISIONAL BALLOTS CAST IN WATAUGA COUNTY STUDENT PRECINCTS
In Boone, after the Watuaga County Board of Elections removed the campus precinct earlier in the year, students organized to move a location closer to campus. They succeeded, and after the new locations were set up, the campus was split into two separate polling locations. This created mass confusion among students trying to vote.
As of 3pm on Tuesday at the student precinct – which was relocated to a night club – 62 regular ballots and 59 provisional ballots had been cast. Poll workers originally told student their provisional ballots would not count and discouraged them from voting. With intense advocacy from NC Vote Defenders, the poll workers’ resistance subsided, and students were given information and directed to their proper voting location.
As the new voting law is implemented in 2014, we know the suppression efforts and problems at the polls will become an even greater challenge. To fight for the right of all North Carolinians to vote, we will need to ramp up our efforts of education and poll monitoring. We cannot let those in power silence the voices of students, of people of color, and of low-income voters, who are all going to be hit hardest by these new laws.