But much more can and should be done. North Carolina needs reporters focusing on the voting process here to help protect the integrity of this election. With fewer resources in newsrooms, creative reporting methods can help. Two examples:
Carolina Transparency, a project of the conservative John W. Pope Civitas Institute (which I’ve written about here before), provides online, up-to-date charts that can help show trends for voter registration and generate story ideas. For example, the numbers there show something happened with the voter rolls in Anson County last summer. Anson is a rural area with high unemployment 50 miles southeast of Charlotte, beyond the coverage areas of the state’s larger newspapers. Between June and July, 620 voters left the voter rolls, according to Carolina Transparency, in a county with only 16,800 registered voters, while other counties were mostly adding voters. A little Googling shows that the North Carolina Board of Elections terminated Anson County’s board of elections director in July. Reporting out that story could shed light on the state’s process of managing voter rolls, and even small numbers will matter in rural Anson, which is in the tight US House 8th District race between incumbent Democrat Larry Kissell and challenger Richard Hudson.
Data is also available from the national News21 Voting Rights project, a national investigative reporting project funded by the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The project built a database this past summer examining cases of voter fraud, using Freedom of Information requests sent across the country. The project’s conclusion: voter fraud is rare and wouldn’t be prevented by voter ID laws. Both the Greensboro News & Record and the Elizabeth City Daily Advance used News21’s conclusions to write editorials against a voter ID law. More reporting could be done, including taking a closer look at the few voter fraud cases that News21 listed in North Carolina, examining how they happened and how they could be prevented.
In North Carolina, the presidential race was decided by 14,000 votes. In contests further down the ticket, even fewer numbers can change elections. Voter registration efforts, voter rolls and the voting process need close examination by journalists here and across the country as the campaigns reach their final stretches.