29 people have right to vote challenged
A Beaufort County voter is challenging the right of 29 voters in Belhaven to vote, register to vote or remain registered to vote in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.
Shane Hubers, a Republican, submitted the challenges to the Beaufort County Board of Elections on Tuesday. During the board’s meeting Tuesday, its members directed Kellie Harris Hopkins to consult with the North Carolina State Board of Election’s legal counsel to determine how the county board should proceed with the challenges. According to Hopkins, the county board is required to conduct a preliminary hearing on challenges, and then proceed with a hearing for each of the relevant challenges.
“I don’t think we need to take this lightly, and I’d rather take a step back and make sure we do it properly because we’re talking about someone’s right to vote,” Hopkins told the county board. “If we remove them, even though this is stemming from a municipal election, we’re talking about removing them prior to a presidential election where they could very well be valid voters within Beaufort County and not just the municipality.”
The county board wants to address the issue as soon as possible. “I’d like to go on and move on it so that way we have it cleaned up by one-stop (voting). I think it’s our responsibility,” said board member Tom Payne. Board member John Tate concurred: “We’re unanimous on that one.”
Hopkins provided the county board an explanation regarding the challenges.
“This stems from a Ricky Radcliffe mailing about a year ago. … Anyhow, Mr. Radcliffe mailed out, his campaign, mailed out mailings to people in Belhaven. Those mailings were returned to Mr. Radcliffe’s campaign as no longer living there or unable to forward,” Hopkins said. “Under North Carolina law, a returned mailing can be used as prima facie evidence that someone no longer lives at that address.”
Of the 29 challenges, only one involved a Republican, according to the list. Twenty-one of the challenges involve Democrats, and four unaffiliated voters are on the list. Twenty-one of the voters being challenged are black, four are white and one is American Indian. The list provided by the county board does not include the race of the unidentified voter or the husband and wife who filled out a registration form together.
Among the 29 challenges, 12 of them concern active voters, according to Hopkins. Of those 12 active voters, six of them had mailers sent to their residential addresses instead of the their post-office boxes. “So, it was actually an error on the side of the campaign because they didn’t mail it to the proper address. There’s one of them that has already changed her address. She actually changed her address on the day of the election. She’s 82 years old, and we’ve got voter history back to 1992. She’s been voting there religiously, and changed her address after this particular mailing was mailed,” Hopkins said.
Eight of the challenged voters are on the local board’s inactive list, meaning the board is in the process of removing them or has removed some of them from the list of registered voters, according to Hopkins.
The board has no record of one the persons on the list as being registered to vote in the county. “We can’t find that person,” Hopkins said,
“Then we actually have one that the husband and wife are challenged on the same form, which is unlawful. They have to be done on separate forms. We would need to reject that because the forms weren’t properly filed out,” Harris added.
Hopkins said it’s her understanding the county board would need to conduct a preliminary hearing to dismiss challenges against the those voters that have been removed from the county’s list of registered voters.
Challenging a voter’s right to vote
According to North Carolina General Statue 163-85, any registered voter of the county may challenge the right of any person to register, remain registered or vote in such county. No such challenge may be made after the twenty-fifth day before each primary, general, or special election. Each challenge shall be made separately, in writing, under oath and on forms prescribed by the State Board of Elections, and shall specify the reasons why the challenged voter is not entitled to register, remain registered or vote. When a challenge is made, the board of elections shall cause the word “challenged” to be written in pencil on the registration records of the voter challenged. The challenge shall be signed by the challenger and shall set forth the challenger’s address.
A challenge may be made for only one or more of the following reasons:
- that a person is not a resident of North Carolina;
- that a person is not a resident of the county in which the person is registered, provided that no such challenge may be made if the person removed his residency and the period of removal has been less than 30 days;
- that a person is not a resident of the precinct in which the person is registered, provided that no such challenge may be made if the person removed his residency and the period of removal has been less than 30 days;
- that a person is not 18 years of age, or if the challenge is made within 60 days before a primary, that the person will not be 18 years of age by the next general election;
- that a person has been adjudged guilty of a felony and is ineligible to vote under G.S. 163-55(2);
- that a person is dead;
- that a person is not a citizen of the United States;
- with respect to municipal registration only, that a person is not a resident of the municipality in which the person is registered;
- that the person is not who he or she represents himself or herself to be.
Preliminary hearing: When a challenge is made, the county board of elections shall schedule a preliminary hearing on the challenge, and shall take such testimony under oath and receive such other evidence proffered by the challenger as may be offered. The burden of proof shall be on the challenger, and if no testimony is presented, the board shall dismiss the challenge. If the challenger presents evidence and if the board finds that probable cause exists that the person challenged is not qualified to vote, then the board shall schedule a hearing on the challenge.
Prima facie evidence that voter no longer resides in precinct: The presentation of a letter mailed by returnable first-class mail to the voter at the address listed on the voter registration card and returned because the person does not live at the address shall constitute prima facie evidence that the person no longer resides in the precinct.