Yet another North Carolina Republican party official was caught directing members of local election boards to limit early voting hours in what has been a pattern of GOP attempts to undermine an appeals court ruling knocking down state voting restrictions.
NCGOP 1st Congressional District Chairman Garry Terry sent an email — surfaced by The News and Observer Wednesday via an open records request — directed to GOP members of county election boards, in which he told them that they “are expected to act within the law and in the best interest of the party.”
He instructed them to pass early voting plans offering the bare minimum of early voting hours and at only one voting site, according to the News and Observer. He also suggested the local boards pass no early voting plans at all, in which case the default plan is the minimum hours legally required for early voting. Early voting is used disproportionately by black voters.
“We will never discourage anyone from voting but none of us have any obligation in any shape, form or fashion to do anything to help the Democrats win this election,” Terry’s email said, according to the News and Observer. “Left unchecked, they would have early voting sites at every large gathering place for Democrats.”
The email was titled “CRITICAL and CONFIDENTIAL,” but nonetheless was subject to an open records request under state law since it was sent to county board members.
The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in late July invalidated a number of voting restrictions in a 2013 omnibus elections law, including a provision that reduced the state’s 17 days of early voting to 10. The appeals court said the restrictions were passed with the intent to discriminate against minority voters, and the Supreme Court denied North Carolina’s request to halt parts of the lower court’s ruling ahead of November’s election.
Because the appeals court decision in effect restored a week of early voting, county boards were told to reconvene and hash out plans for voting opportunities in the additional seven days. The county boards are each made up of two Republicans and one Democrat, due to the fact that the state’s governor is a Republicans.
The North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse also sent an email to Republican county board members instructing them to limit early voting, including Sunday voting — which is popular among black voters who participate “soul to poll” church drives — and on college campuses.
“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse’s memo said. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”
North Carolina’s State Board of Elections will hold a hearing Thursday on the 30 or so county plans that were passed without unanimous support — in many cases because Republican board members sought to egregiously limit early voting. The state board has the authority to adjust those plans.