NC NAACP requests material on voter challenges

Published 4:54 pm Thursday, October 27, 2016

The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP is seeking public records related to voter challenges in Beaufort County.

The written request, hand delivered to the Beaufort County Board of Elections on Wednesday afternoon, was signed by Irv Joyner, a law professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law, on behalf of the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter. Lauren Bonds and LaRell Purdie, whose business cards identified them as assistant legal counsel for the Service Employees International Union in Washington, D.C., delivered the request to the board.

The request lists nine categories of public records the NAACP wants copies of or access to, including, but not limited to meeting notices, correspondence, minutes of hearings, photographs of hearing, audio recording of hearings and emails related to voter challengers. Bonds and Purdie were given access to some of the request public records minutes after presenting the request, said Kellie Harris Hopkins, elections director for Beaufort County.

“The law requires that you respond to and fulfill this request ‘as promptly as possible.’ If you expected a significant delay in responding to and fulfilling this request, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records,” Joyner wrote.

Although conducting early voting and processing voter challenges, the Board of Elections staff intends to provide the requested information in a timely manner, Hopkins said.

“When the representatives hand-delivered their request (Wednesday), I let them, right then, have access to what they needed. We were able to give them audio files from the preliminary and the challenge hearings immediately, as soon as they requested it,” Hopkins said. “Also … we gave them copies, and they took pictures of things they needed that were on hand. I think they left here with a lot of information. I will try to finish up as soon as I possibly can.”

Hopkins added: “I don’t think any of it is something that can wait. So, it just directly equates to long hours. It was 11 o’clock before I got out of here (Wednesday) night. I was here at 7:15 (Thursday) morning. So, it’s all important, and it will all equally get my attention.”

Hopkins said the public-records request would not hinder the early voting process or dealing with voter challenges.

In an email written Thursday, Joyner wrote, “The NC NAACP is monitoring challenges to voters’registration around North Carolina. We are actively investigating complaints regarding this issue from around the State and are in regular contact with the State Board of Election and several county boards where these challenges have been filed or acted upon.”

On Monday, the board conducted its first hearing on voter challenges. A second hearing is set for 9 a.m. Saturday at the board’s office, 1308 Highland Drive, Suite 104, Washington. The board could hear up to 86 challenges.

The challenges, according to Hopkins, stem from a mailing by Ricky Radcliffe’s campaign about a year ago. Radcliffe was a mayoral candidate in Belhaven in 2015, but he lost to Mayor Adam O’Neal. Those mailings were returned to Radcliffe’s campaign because the people mailed the items no longer live at the location where the mailings were addressed to or the mailings were unable to be forwarded, according to Hopkins.

Under North Carolina law, a returned mailing can be used as prima facie evidence that someone no longer lives at that address, Hopkins said earlier this month.

In a communication with the North Carolina State Board of Elections last week, the NAACP contended removal of some voters from voter rolls violates federal law. The state board disagrees.

In a subsequent letter signed by Barber and addressed to Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the state elections board, the state NAACP chapter threatened litigation if the state elections officials did not meet with NAACP representatives to “resolve” the issue before the Beaufort County Board of Elections began conducting hearings on voter challenges. Those hearing began Monday.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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