FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 25, 2022
DURHAM, N.C. (February 25, 2022) — Each year, Democracy North Carolina and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) work to identify and remove voting barriers. The 2020 Election Protection report documented our advocacy during one of the state’s highest turnout and safest elections on record. Central to our report is an analysis of over 13,000 phone calls voters made to our statewide voter assistance hotline (888-OUR-VOTE) as well as from thousands of volunteers (also known as “Vote Protectors”), who observed polling places and helped voters during the 2020 elections.
Our evaluation of North Carolina voter and volunteer experiences found:
- The complexity of the vote-by-mail process remained a barrier. Voters reported a lack of clarity around requirements in requesting, completing, and returning ballots, in addition to concerns about receiving and sending ballots in time for their votes to be counted.
- Voters found registration requirements burdensome and confusing. Voters had many questions about how to update their registration address. They also expressed confusion about changes to their registration status, including being listed as “inactive”, removed from the voter rolls, and being told they’re not registered to vote when showing up to vote on Election Day, barring them from voting a regular ballot.
- Too many voters reported feeling intimidated, often beyond the limited scope of the legal definition of voter intimidation. From verbal harassment to aggressive electioneering and police presence, some voters reported feeling harassed at or inside the polls.
- The digital divide affected North Carolinians’ access to the ballot. Voters reported a lack of internet and computer access as barriers at various stages of the mail voting and registration processes.
- Voters with disabilities continued to face multiple barriers to voting. Calls from voters with disabilities or callers assisting voters with disabilities revealed concerns around mail voting, registration, and voting site operations, specifically curbside voting.
- Existing problems at the polls persisted in 2020. Hotline calls and volunteer site evaluation reports show prior challenges from earlier elections continued at some voting sites in 2020, including site accessibility, curbside voting implementation, and poll worker training.
North Carolinians — particularly Black, Latine, and Indigenous communities — have faced an evolving array of barriers preventing residents from exercising their freedom to vote. Last century’s literacy tests and poll taxes, used to keep Black and low-resourced voters away from the polls, have evolved into more insidious tactics like complex vote-by-mail procedures, intimidation, and felony disenfranchisement.
Kaitlin Kaiser, Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice: “We’re grateful to contribute to this comprehensive election analysis. The 2020 Election Protection Report not only reveals the challenges voters face when attempting to cast a ballot in North Carolina, but it also highlights what voters and advocates accomplished together in 2020’s historic and unprecedented election cycle. The report also offers crucial next steps North Carolinians can take to maintain our pro-voter momentum in the elections to come. By documenting our wins and recommendations from 2020, we can provide a vital blueprint to protecting voting access in North Carolina and across the nation.”
Caroline Fry, interim Advocacy Director for Democracy NC: “This report provides an in-depth look at what the voting experience was like in our state in 2020. By analyzing thousands of interactions with voters, we uncovered issues with voting by mail, registering to vote, intimidation, and accessibility. We can take these lessons to continue advocating for policy changes that will make North Carolina a model for voter accessibility in the South.”
The 2020 General Election report offers actionable steps for lawmakers and the State Board of Elections to protect voters through improving voting by mail, early voting, and more.
Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan non profit organization that strengthens democratic structures, builds power among disenfranchised communities, and inspires confidence in a transformed political process that works for all. Learn more at democracync.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.