Grace Bell Hardison, a 100-year-old Black woman and resident of Belhaven, North Carolina, lived through The Great Depression, Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement, and she witnessed the first Black president of the United States get elected into office twice. Hardison’s right to vote was challenged by Shane Hubers, a Belhaven Republican.
It’s legal in North Carolina for private citizens to formally challenge a voter’s eligibility prior to an election. Beginning in 2015, residents running for office in Belhaven mailed fliers to registered voters and then challenged the registrations of voters connected to any fliers that came back undelivered.
“Some time passed and we still had these letters and we just decided that we needed to clear up the Belhaven voting rolls,” Hubers, who filed 45 of the challenges, told WNCT.
Hardison was one of those challenged and was told that if she did not appear before the county Board of Elections meeting or return a notarized form, she would be removed from the voting rolls.
“My mail comes to the post office,” Hardison said in an interview. “I don’t have no mail come to the house. Ever since I’ve been here, my mail has been coming to the post office.”
According to NBC News, on a Thursday conference call organized by the NAACP, Hardison’s nephew, Greg Satterthwaite, said she has been on the voting rolls for 30 years.
Of the 138 Belhaven residents who had their status challenged, 92 were Black and registered Democrats, 28 were unaffiliated, 17 were Republicans and one was Libertarian, according to WNCT. Thirty-two challenges have already been dismissed.
Belhaven is located in Beaufort County. Kelli Hopkins of Beaufort County elections said on Thursday that 14 voters have been removed, and hearings are pending for about 90 more. She told NBC News challenged voters are typically removed if they do not respond to a letter or show up to a hearing on their eligibility.
After public outcry, Hardison has been cleared to vote.
Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Beaufort County had to approve its voting changes with the federal government because of a history of discrimination. However, due to the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision in 2013, the county no longer needs approval.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admits the Supreme Court’s decision created limitations for the Department of Justice.
“[Our] work has only become more important since 2013, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County limited one of our most important tools to fight laws and policies that make it harder for many Americans, especially low-income citizens and citizens of color, to cast their ballots,” Lynch said last week.
4,500 Voters Challenged in Three Counties
The state confirmed in a letter to the NAACP that about 4,500 voters in Beaufort, Cumberland and Moore counties were challenged; the majority were in Cumberland County.
Last week, in aletter to the state board of elections, NAACP North Carolina president the Rev. William Barber II, who was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention in July, said he wants the board to restore the registrations of voters whose names were removed “based on unreliable and unverifiable evidence” that their addresses changed.
He said the systematic removals of voters were “prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and violate North Carolina voter registration laws.”
In a response sent Thursday to Barber, Kim Strach, state board of elections director, said the removals were being done on an individual basis rather than systematically, so they were legal, NBC News reported.
Problems at the Polls
In a press release Monday night, Barber reported problems at the polls in North Carolina. He said that ever since early voting began, at least five counties have reported malfunctioning electronic ballot machines.
The statement reads, in part:
“The North Carolina NAACP has now received reports from NC NAACP membership in at least 5 counties that, in some instances, electronic voting machines may be malfunctioning and improperly identifying a voters’ selected choice as a choice for a different candidate.
“Voters report that they have experienced this problem voting on ballot items that include, but are not limited to, the Presidential ballot.”
In the reported cases voters corrected their ballots after noticing the problem, according to the release.