Judges may order arrests of election law violators
Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Make a scene at a polling place in Beaufort County and you run the risk of being arrested.
Beaufort County elections officials and representatives of the county’s Republican and Democratic parties discussed that issue and other election-related matters during a meeting last week. The meeting focused on procedures and regulations regarding the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.
Chief judges and judges at polling places may order the arrest of anyone violating any election law and call upon law enforcement officers to aid them in enforcing the law, according to Article 5, Section 163-48 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Such an arrest cannot prevent the person from being arrested from registering to vote or voting if entitled to exercising those rights.
“The sheriff, police officers, and other officers of the peace shall immediately obey and aid in the enforcement of any lawful order made by the precinct election officials in the enforcement of the election laws. The chief judge and judges of election of any precinct, or any two of such election officials, shall have the authority to deputize any person or persons as police officers to aid in maintaining order at the place of registration or voting,” reads Section 163-48.
The elections officials and party leaders discussed interference and intimidation at polling places.
“I don’t like to see it happen, and I don’t care who’s doing it. I don’t care who the guilty party it is. I don’t want to see anybody impeding the voting process or you all from peacefully being able to do your jobs,” said Keith Kidwell, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party. “I know there was a lot of that stuff that went on with the Republicans down in Belhaven — Republicans on the Republican board. I’ll tell you right now, I will be in Belhaven the next time that happens when we have an election down there.”
Kidwell may have been referring to allegations of improper voter influence in elections in Belhaven in 2013 and 2015 when poll officials were targeted.
As for arresting someone for improper conduct at the Belhaven polling place, Kidwell said, “There’s a certain Republican that will be arrested if he does it again.”
Cathy Gaynor, chairwoman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, asked for clarification of the arrest issue.
“I’ve never had it happen,” said Kellie Harris Hopkins, the county’s elections director, who’s held the position for 18 years.