Newly uncovered emails show that Republican officials in North Carolina intentionally tried to suppress the African-American vote by curtailing the operating hours of early voting places and opening fewer polling sites.
Per emails exclusively obtained by Reuters, state and local GOP officials lobbied members of 17 county election boards to keep early-voting sites open for shorter hours on weekends and in evenings — times that typically see high turnout among Democratic voters.
The emails also revealed Republican officials had encouraged county election boards to limit the number of sites where residents could cast their ballots ahead of Election Day.
Reuters reports that while North Carolina added almost 5,900 more hours and 78 more sites to vote early than in 2012, voter turnout has dropped 20 percent in counties that opened just one polling place during the first week of early voting this year.
“We currently have more early voting locations and hours open than ever were open under Democrat control,” asserted Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of North Carolina’s Republican Party.
State Republicans argued it would be a waste of county resources to keep voting places open during evenings and on weekends. However, Democrats see their efforts as a discriminatory smokescreen to suppress the votes of Black and minority residents.
County elections board chairman Bill McAnulty said he was labeled a sellout and a traitor by fellow Republicans after he approved the opening of a Sunday voting site for Black churchgoers to cast their ballots after service. The swift backlash ultimately prompted McAnulty to withdraw his support for the weekend polling place.
“I became a villain, quite frankly,” he told Reuters. “I got accused of being a traitor and everything else.”
Along with McAnulty, Rowan County Republican Executive Committee member Elaine Hewitt and Garry Terry, a chairman of the Republican Party for North Carolina’s First Congressional District, also lobbied to limit voting hours on the weekends.
Per the news site, Hewitt sent the county elections board two proposed schedules for early voting — both of which included only one site for the first four days of early voting and no sites on Sundays.
“With all of the opportunities to vote by mail, early in person Monday-Saturday, and on Election Day, there is no justification for requiring election workers to work on Sundays,” she wrote in the emails.
Terry expressed similar sentiments in an email addressed to board members in his region, stating it would be “in the best interest of the Republican Party” to oppose Sunday voting and limit voting locations.
This isn’t the first time the Republican party has been accused of conspiring to suppress the votes of African-American citizens. Earlier this week, Democratic officials in four battleground states filed a lawsuit against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and the GOP for its alleged plans to intimidate minority voters on Election Day, Atlanta Black Star reports.
Per Salon, the NAACP also filed a suit accusing North Carolina’s local Republican election boards of illegally purging thousands of Black voters from registration lists. Back in July, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s strict voter I.D. laws “target[ed] African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
A recent poll reveled that Black voter turnout is down in North Carolina. Still, Republicans assert that their efforts are in no way discriminatory — they just don’t think anyone should have to work the polls on Sundays.