Dispelling election concerns | Eastern North Carolina Now | Much has been written and said concerning the November 8th elections, specifically about possible interference or disruptions when you go to vote

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Tom Campbell
    Much has been written and said concerning the November 8th elections, specifically about possible interference or disruptions when you go to vote. As is so common today, especially on social media, many of the things being asserted are just plain wrong.

    Before you vote - and I cannot urge you strongly enough to do so this year - I want to put the facts in front of you so you can know what to expect at the polling place. To make sure I got it right I posed questions to Damon Circosta, chair of the State Board of Elections.

    Surrogates, candidates, parties or even causes are allowed to be present at polling sites, however they must maintain a buffer zone of at least 50 feet away from the entrance to the site. These folks may offer you materials and even recommend candidates for whom you may vote, however they are required to be respectful and if you tell them you don't want the materials or ask them to stop or back away, they are to comply with your request.

    Inside the polling site you will encounter the registrars making sure you are registered to vote and the precinct in which you are registered. After this authentication you will be sent to a table to actually receive the ballot you are to mark up.

    At each polling place two observers, one from each political party, can be allowed inside the enclosure. Their names have been submitted to your country board of elections and, in turn, given each polling site. In addition to the two named, the political party is able to submit the names of ten additional observers, people who can spell the observer for lunch, etc. The rules regarding what they observers can and cannot do are very specific. They cannot wear any signs, buttons, clothing or pictures of candidates. They are not allowed to take photos, videos or recordings of voters without the consent of the voter and the site supervisor. They are discouraged from even having conversation with you and cannot provide voter assistance, even you ask. They are to direct you to the site "help desk," which each polling place has.

    The media (especially social media) has reported there will be threats, intimidation or interference where you vote, so what do you do if you encounter any activity or attitudes not conducive to the vote? Circosta says the laws are clear on this. First, go to the help desk at each site or to the site supervisor to raise a concern or question. You can identify the site supervisor because he or she will be wearing a badge with the title clearly indicated. If, for whatever reason you do not feel your concerns have been adequately addressed you should immediately contact your County Board of Elections or even the State Board of Elections to register your concerns. The likelihood of action is most likely to be found at the precinct or county board of elections.

    Good news. As of the date of my interview (10/28) Circosta enthusiastically reported very few problems had arisen in mail-in or early voting. Furthermore, North Carolina has very implicit rules regarding the counting of your vote. Again, observers and media are allowed to watch the process, however they are not allowed to disrupt or intimidate those tabulating votes in each county board of elections office. North Carolina has a proud record for receiving ballots from voting sites, handling them properly and counting them accurately. And with increased awareness of possible interference the procedures have been strengthened and procedures put in place if there is a potential problem.

    My wife and I voted early and must report it was the best voting experience we ever had. Everyone was friendly, helpful, knew their roles and performed them well. Mistakenly, one of us marked a ballot incorrectly. The voting machine kicked out the "soiled" ballot, the site supervisor was notified and a fresh ballot provided. This time the machine processed it.

    Please don't be alarmed or misled about disruptions, intimidation or threats. Some of this "noise" is being raised to try to discourage you from voting, but don't let anyone or anything prevent you from your constitutionally guaranteed right. And be assured that every person working the polls has been instructed how to handle any irregularities.

    Here's hoping for a large turnout in these midterm elections and one that is accompanied by good behavior and Democracy is well served, regardless of who wins.

      Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 1/2 years. Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com.
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