Perhaps the N.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity was just trying to be helpful when it mailed out a bunch of “official application forms” to prospective voters.
Thanks a lot, guys.
The State Board of Elections tells news organizations it has been hammered with queries and complaints about the forms, which include confusing misstatements about the voter registration process.
If being helpful was its real intent, Americans for Prosperity would have done better simply to direct folks to the state board’s website. The board offers accurate, clear instructions for registering to vote in the November 4 general election, plus other useful information such as sample ballots and polling place locations tied to residential addresses.
The Council of Churches, which has been working with partner groups to boost voter participation, also has a summary of current election rules available here in a format suitable for distributing with church bulletins. And yes, the accuracy of the Council’s summary is unchallenged!
Rules that have shifted this year, courtesy of a law enacted by the 2013 General Assembly, do raise the risk of confusion on voters’ part. Churches can play an important role in making sure members know what they need to do in order to exercise their precious voting rights.
A critical date is Friday, October 10, which this year is the last date to register. That’s a significant change from the previous rule, under which someone could register during the early voting period and cast a vote on the same day. Registration forms may be downloaded from the State Board of Elections. Forms should be submitted to county boards of elections, with October 10 the deadline for either in-person submission or for mailing.
Another key change is that the period for early voting has been shortened from 17 days to 10. Early voting will begin on Thursday, October 23, and continue through Saturday, Nov. 1. Check with county elections boards to locate early voting sites.
Although voters will need to show a government-issued photo ID beginning in 2016, there is no photo ID requirement this year. No one who’s properly registered should be deterred from voting in the upcoming election because he or she doesn’t have a driver’s license, for example.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Americans for Prosperity would not disclose how many registration application forms it had distributed or how it developed its mailing list. Among the mistakes on its forms were a wrong date for the registration deadline and a wrong address to which the forms should be sent. An official with the conservative-oriented group characterized the mistakes as “minor administrative errors.”
Intentionally distributing wrong information about voter registration can rise to the level of a felony. Acting on a complaint filed by the N.C. Democratic Party, the State Board of Elections is investigating. In any case, the episode stands as a clear reminder: Amid changing rules and high-stakes elections, voters need to keep their headlights on to avoid being “helped” down a troublesome path.