Board of Elections selects voting assistance team

By Kevin Spradlin

* Sample ballot (PDF) – District 48District 66

ROCKINGHAM — On paper, the job description seems simple enough: Help a voter request an absentee ballot and cast an absentee ballot.

But much of life happens in area between black and white, and the issue of voting is not immune to scrutiny. Such an issue was the center of discussion on Tuesday as Connie Kelly, director of elections for Richmond County, and Board of Elections members A.B. Brown, Ernie Walters and Carlton Hawkins met at the Board of Elections office on South Hancock Street to discuss the appointment of a Multipartisan Assistance Team.

Kevin Spradlin | Board of Elections Chairman A.B. Brown reviews the rules for Multipartisan Assistant Teams.

Kevin Spradlin |
Board of Elections Chairman A.B. Brown reviews the rules for Multipartisan Assistant Teams.

The names were decided on easily enough: Barbara McLaughlin, Brenda Baucom and Nancy Barber for the Republicans and Sarah Kirk, Rita Melton and Nancy Morrison for the Democrats. If an activities coordinator or program director at a facility such as a hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home in Richmond County has any resident that requests voting assistance, at least two MAT members — one from each major party — schedule a visit within 48 hours.

There are, however, strict limitations placed on the actions of not only MAT members but representatives of the facility itself.

Board members first discussed the minimum requirement of two-person teams. What happens, asked Walters, if there’s a disagreement among the two MAT members during a visit?

“Seems there needs to be kind of a third (person)” to break the tie, Walters said.

Kelly said the issue could ultimately come back to the board members, but a three-person team is permissible. However, it might be difficult to find three people willing to go to the same location at the same time. The individuals selected are not county workers. Instead, each is an experienced precinct veteran who gets paid only seasonally within an election cycle.

The voter could need help filling out the form, or opening or sealing the ballot. And in some cases, the level of commitment from the activities coordinator or facilitator could make a difference in turnout and integrity. Offering patients or nursing/rest home residents to vote by absentee ballot is one thing. Thrusting it upon them is another.

It’s when “they get gung-ho about it … which is not a bad thing except … it should be the residents asking,” Kelly said.

The coordinator should simply make the information available, Kelly said, and call the MAT for help. Then, Kelly said, the facility should be ready. She recalled one instance in which a facility was anything but. Instead of the residents being ready to meet with MAT members, Kelly said they decided to go door-to-door within residential rooms — which could be seen as both an invasion of privacy and forcing voting on an individual.

“It was a bad idea, a terrible idea,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the rules from the state make uniform an otherwise eclectic series of standards that varied from county to county.

“This is taking control of what each county was doing on an individual basis,” Kelly said.


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