NCNAACP Call for "Emergency Action" to Help Hurricane Victims to Vote



Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

In an October 1st letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, Republican legislative leaders in the state House and Senate, and the chairman, executive director, and members of the NC State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement, NCNAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, citing a “Great concern…” for the victims of Hurricane Florence, urged the governor and state lawmakers to “release … hurricane relief resources to the fullest extent possible and immediate action.”

“…[W]e pray that the [legislative] special session (which started Oct. 2nd) will focus first, foremost, and solely on the needs of the most vulnerable and ensuring equitable distribution of resources," Spearman wrote.

The NCNAACP president noted that the 29 eastern and coastal counties most affected by flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Florence, are “…also home to a disproportionate number of African-American voters, and some of the highest numbers of North Carolinians living below the poverty line.”

Thus, Spearman specifically asked officials with the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, with the beginning of the Early Voting period on Oct. 17th through Nov. 3rd, to “extend the voter registration deadline by at least three business days (in the affected counties) and direct those county boards of election to accept voter registrations that are postmarked by Wednesday, October 17th, 2018.”

Dr. Spearman also asked that voters displaced by the storm be able to cast absentee ballots by making those mail-in ballots accessible, allowing local churches and community organizations to assist hurricane victims in obtaining, preparing and submitting the ballots.

He suggests that hurricane victims be allowed to use “…the same or similar federal postcard application available to military-overseas voters,” also extending the deadline for absentee ballot requests to mirror those of military-overseas voters.

Attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the NCNAACP’s Legal Redress Committee, and Catlin Swain, co-director of Forward Justice, a nonprofit legal advocacy group based in Durham, said at a Monday press conference outside of the legislature that legally, those impacted by the hurricane have the right to vote, and the state must do all it can to ensure that right is not obstructed by obstacles presented by the storm.

Dr. Spearman, prior to introducing several victims of, not only Hurricane Florence, but some who were still recovering from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, expressed doubt that the Republican-led NC General Assembly would do anything to address their concerns.

Apparently in answer, GOP leader Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) tweeted that he would support extending voter registration in those impacted counties until Oct. 15th, adding that he’s already garnered support from both sides of the aisle.

“No need for name-calling on this issue,” Rep. Lewis tweeted. “We’re all working to help hurricane-impacted families and voters.”