SUMMA: Elections – “We the people” deserve better

Early voters line up to cast their ballots at the South Regional Library polling location in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff to former President Barack Obama, said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” During the 2020 election, those words resonated with many Americans as blue state Democrats ran roughshod over state election laws in the name of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although not well-publicized, North Carolina experienced the same injustice. Implementing a tactic used in several states, the director of the NC State Board of Elections (NCSBE) claimed emergency powers. (Never mind that under NC law, emergency powers were designed to be triggered in cases of a “disruption of the election schedule,” which there was not.)

Singlehandedly, without board approval, the director issued directives dictating early voting sites, dismantling statutorily required witness requirements on absentee ballots, forcing approval of absentee ballots that were not postmarked on Election Day (also in violation of NC law) and forcing counties to accept absentee ballots that were received up to nine days after the election. The director also instructed county boards that they could not compare voter signatures on absentee ballot envelopes to the voter’s registration signatures.

Federal District Court Judge William Osteen stopped one directive. Other attempts failed. Contrary to what Democrats have stated, these court challenges failed, not on their merits, but because the court was reluctant to halt their implementation so close to the election.  In fact, in his Oct. 31, 2020, order, Osteen found it “inconceivable” that the state board had issued a directive that “fails to comply with the express requirements of state law.” 

Because hundreds of ballots were counted in violation of state law, many Republican members on local boards of election and one Republican on the State Board of Elections voted against certification of the election results. Yet, because the state and all local boards are controlled by Democrats, the votes were certified in compliance with the director’s edicts. 

Every state should use the past election to learn a lesson: Election laws need to be strengthened to ensure that those laws are not nullified by bureaucrats and are strict enough to protect the integrity of the election results.

What can be done in North Carolina? Plenty.

Curb emergency powers of the state director. Allow emergency powers to be exercised ONLY when there is a disruption in the election schedule, such as due to a hurricane.  

Statutorily provide “standing” for the state Senate majority leader and House speaker to sue in cases where the director exceeds his/her authority.

Require judges at early voting, not just on Election Day, to ensure that election laws are being followed during the entirety of early voting.

Require signature verification software for absentee ballots. In the alternative, require contact information of a witness. Current law simply requires a name, address and signature, many times illegible, which is useless for possible verification.  

Clean up the registration records. Require that the Board of Elections be notified weekly regarding dead voters and felony convictions. Sometimes, local boards are not notified for months after a felon is convicted or a person dies.

Require proof of citizenship at registration rather than simply asking the voter about his/her citizenship status.

The Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher once said, “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its law.” The lyrics of songs can affect opinion and behavior so much more effectively than laws. Democrats have redefined election laws as vehicles of voter suppression, and they have sung that song from the hilltops. As their song goes, anyone who attempts to run an election in an orderly, logical, rule-based fashion is an enemy of liberty.

Election laws are written to protect liberty, not destroy it. The first words of the Constitution are “we the people.” As citizens who have pledged allegiance to a nation, we enter into a social contract where we freely give up power to create a government designed to protect our liberty.  

Governmental power, as the Declaration states, derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.” To allow duplicate voting, imposter voting or voting by individuals who have not entered into that social contract weakens that consent and, ultimately, destroys the legitimacy of that government’s existence. Once that government is no longer a legitimate authority, it no longer holds the authority to protect individual rights.

There is a crisis in America — it is called the future of liberty. For ourselves and our posterity in North Carolina, and across this nation, we must continue to champion fair and honest elections to secure liberty.  

Don’t let this “crisis go to waste.” Be on the right side of freedom for everyone.

Mary Potter Summa is a licensed attorney in North Carolina and an assistant professor at Belmont Abbey College. She has served on the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections for 11 years.