In North Carolina, voter and poll worker interference and intimidation cases are few and far between

There are some reported instances across Southeastern North Carolina: two in New Hanover County and two in Columbus County.
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 4:35 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Conversations surrounding election integrity in the past several years have led to concerns of voter intimidation and harassment of poll workers but data provided by the North Carolina State Board of Elections shows these instances are few and far between.

As of Friday, more than 1.6 million voters in North Carolina cast early ballots for the General Election, and that number is now more than 2 million. In that time, there were 14 reports of possible voter intimidation, voter interference, and election official intimidation.

To put that into perspective that is just 0.000875 of all votes cast as of Nov. 4, 2022.

The chart provided by the North Carolina State Board of Elections shows there are 14 incidents...
The chart provided by the North Carolina State Board of Elections shows there are 14 incidents they are investigating regarding election interference.(NCSBE)

However rare, there are instances across Southeastern North Carolina, with four reported incidents of such actions, two in New Hanover County and two in Columbus County.

“The State Board and its law enforcement partners are monitoring several isolated incidents of possible voter or poll worker harassment or intimidation, as well as cases of aggressive campaigning outside polling places,” Pat Gannon, a spokesperson for the NCSBE said.

In New Hanover County the two incidents included, “Electioneer “harassing” students walking to class at a one-stop site; observer angrily confronting election official,” according to the NCSBE.

So far New Hanover County’s Board of Elections has not responded to a request about these two incidents or provided information as to who was involved with these occurrences.

In Columbus County, election officials, not voters, were involved in the two instances. The NCSBE states the incidents in question involved an “observer following one-stop workers in their car, photographing or filming workers.”

These situations were extremely egregious according to Karen Brinson Bell, Executive Director for the NSCBE.

“We did have a situation in another county where a one-stop worker was followed from the voting site to the elections office and then followed to their home. This is possibly the most egregious situation that we’ve had at this point in time, but none of this is okay. We want civility, we want people to be able to cast their ballot without fear of intimidation or interference,” she said.

On Monday the Department of Justice announced plans to be on-site to ensure voter rights are protected in Columbus County.

“Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters. The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center. The Civil Rights Division enforces the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot,” according to the DOJ.

It’s not just Columbus County or North Carolina the Civil Rights Division plans to be observing — there are five counties in North Carolina, and 24 states where they will be on Election Day.

In North Carolina, the jurisdictions where the DOJ plans to monitor are:

  • Alamance County, North Carolina;
  • Columbus County, North Carolina;
  • Harnett County, North Carolina;
  • Mecklenburg County, North Carolina;
  • Wayne County, North Carolina;

These types of actions aren’t just wrong they could lead to criminal charges as well.

“State and federal laws forbid intimidation or interference with the right of a voter to participate in an election, including hindering access to the voting place, whether inside or outside the buffer zone. The law also makes it a crime to interfere with election officials carrying out their duties. Penalties for violations include prison time, a fine, or both,” according to the NCSBE.