In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, reports of harassment and intimidation at the polls were so rampant in North Carolina that the state's top election official was obliged to send a memo to his employees reminding them that they could call police if necessary.
Now, as North Carolina's governor prepares to sign one of the most restrictive election bills in the nation, civil-rights advocates and election officials in the state expect to see a rise in what they call voter intimidation.
The law, which North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to sign any day, would allow political parties to send 10 roving "observers" from precinct to precinct on voting days, and it would authorize citizens to challenge the legality of votes cast in the county where the challenger lives. (Under the current law, you can only challenge a vote cast by someone living in your precinct.) [...]
The state’s Republican-dominated Legislature passed the law in July, despite scant evidence of voter impersonation fraud in North Carolina (or in any other state). In a statement, Phil Berger, the leader of the State Senate, said the bill "restores clarity, transparency and confidence in the voting process. It curtails the questions of voter fraud by folks on both sides of the aisle and helps ensure every candidate wins or loses on his or her own merits."
In recent years, more than 30 states around the country have passed laws requiring voters to show ID. North Carolina would become one of at least three states to allow behavior by poll watchers or poll observers that could threaten voting rights, according to a report by the progressive groups Demos and Common Cause.