NC SBoE says Alamance Co. in violation of Voter Registration Act

Alamance County is in the doghouse with the NC State Board of Elections. According to the State Board of Elections, the Alamance Dept of Social Services has “substantially failed to comply with the requirements of Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act.” Burke and Johnston Counties have also been a problem until recently. Is Alamance County, North Carolina’s Department of Social Services helping clients register to vote (as required by law) or not? The problem is that we don’t know, since the Department of Social Services (DSS) has not been sending in the required paperwork to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. The DSS has made excuses but that dog won’t hunt since 97 other counties complied without whining. If the DSS truly is assisting clients in registering to vote, then why not send the paperwork in?

DSS, state elections board still at odds
April 03, 2010 3:20 PM
Robert Boyer / Times-News

The squabble over voter registration record-keeping continues between the Alamance County Department of Social Services and the state Board of Elections.

This week, the county DSS sent 560 voter preference forms to the county Board of Elections. Among other things, the forms list whether clients register to vote or decline to register.

Osborne said until this week, the DSS has been storing the preference forms, but hasn’t been sending them to the county Board of Elections.

A 1993 federal law requires agencies that provide public assistance to ask clients if they have registered and help them register if clients wish.

Don Wright, the state elections board’s top attorney, said such practices violate state and federal election law.

According to a Feb. 25 letter from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the DSS offices in Alamance, Burke and Johnston counties “have consistently and substantially failed to comply with the requirements of Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act.”

The letter went on to ask the agencies to comply. “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring compliance with the NVRA and will, where appropriate, bring enforcement actions in federal district court to ensure such compliance …” wrote T. Christian Herren Jr., the acting chief of the division’s Voting Section.

Osborne countered Wednesday that her agency has “always” complied with Section 7 requirements. “We have lots of work to do, work that we are mandated to do. We’ve been meeting the mandate of the law. We just haven’t been doing some of the extra steps” the state Board of Elections is requiring. The state requirements are policy and are not law. Wright said they are part of state law.

But Gary O. Bartlett, the state board’s executive director, continues to side with his attorney.

In a March 17 letter to Herren, Bartlett wrote that his “office continues to have difficulty in working with” the Alamance County DSS. “We will be happy to provide you with any data you request about voter registration statistics coming from Alamance County and specifically generated at the Alamance County Department of Social Services.”

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