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Don’t get the wrong idea from NC09 hearings: Let’s not make it (even) harder to vote in NC

The NC09 hearings have shone the national spotlight onto what appears to be coordinated and well-funded election fraud in eastern North Carolina.

As the NC State Board of Elections investigators wade through piles of evidence and often lengthy testimony, one dangerous narrative has emerged: the notion that our entire voting system should be overhauled.

Yes, a few individuals appear to have taken advantage of the procedures for requesting and returning absentee ballots. But these revelations do not necessitate targeting past and future voters. The actions detailed during testimony, especially on the first day of the hearing, are already illegal. Making it more difficult to register to vote, to vote in person, or to vote by mail won’t prevent future abuses of NC election law by so-called “political operatives.”

Requiring a photo ID to vote, ending same-day registration, and shortening the early vote period would not have prevented the type of electoral fraud the NCSBE is investigating. Republican efforts to target in-person “voter fraud,” which is largely nonexistent, would not have prevented a single action described in the testimony so far.  Moreover, they have not made an effort to target the kind of election fraud and other questionable actions that occurred in NC09.

It is time to push for more rigorous accountability for candidates, their consultants, and paid staffers.  Harris’ political consultant Andy Yates of Red Dome, a person supposedly so well-versed in NC politics that he made a career out of it, testified that he was comfortable with practices common on the Harris campaign. Yates was comfortable paying more than $131K to a man with no written contract and comfortable not requiring receipts for significant reimbursement. Overall, the campaign and its consultants seemed fine with keeping limited records about expenses. This is concerning and does not inspire faith in our elections process.

Based on what we have heard so far Thursday from Mark Harris, it seems that the area for reform should be in campaign finance law. Instead of making it harder to vote, let’s make it even clearer that it is not legal to hand out cash for political work without documentation.

Political campaigns and their consultants should not feel comfortable reimbursing expenses without documentation, they should not feel comfortable paying workers without written contracts, and they certainly should not feel comfortable giving out cash for work with questionable legality. These practices have nothing to do with voters or voting. Don’t punish the voters for (witting or unwitting) abuse of legal loopholes in NC09.