North Carolina Adopts Amended Rules for Partisan Election Observers

UPDATE: Last week, North Carolina’s Rules Review Commission rejected the two temporary rule changes regulating the conduct of partisan election observers that were approved by the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) on Aug. 16. Although the rules were unanimously passed by the NCSBE, they required final approval by the rules commission, a panel of 10 members who are appointed by the Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature. The NCSBE will not appeal the rules commission’s decision to reject the rule changes, but will instead offer guidance to county boards of elections and poll workers “to ensure they understand their authority.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) adopted two sets of amended temporary rules pertaining to the conduct of partisan election observers and precinct officials that will take effect before the November general election. The temporary rules that were adopted today make minor amendments to the original rules guiding the activities of both party observers and poll workers and aim to provide clarity regarding these roles. 

The NCSBE initially proposed making amendments to the rules following the release of survey results indicating that local election officials in multiple North Carolina counties witnessed partisan election observers breach the rules of conduct during the state’s May primary election. The survey results revealed that election officials witnessed party observers — many of whom were identified as Republican-appointed observers — intimidating and verbally harassing voters and poll workers, entering restricted areas in polling places and engaging in other forms of intimidation such as following election officials to their cars. Although North Carolina state law already prohibits any form of electioneering, intimidation or disruption of the voting process by both poll workers and party observers, the amended rules further elucidate that election observers should not be close enough to a voter to view confidential information, such as one’s date of birth or Social Security number. Additionally, the amended rules for precinct officials provide a list of prohibited actions that include discriminating against voters on the basis of race, making statements about one’s personal political views while on duty and more. According to NCSBE spokesperson Patrick Gannon, the amended rules “are necessary to ensure election workers and voters are not interfered with and the voting process is not disrupted in any way.”

Read the rules here.