Former Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat; and former Judge Bob Orr, a one-time Republican whose recent political efforts have been largely in opposition to his former party, are leading an initiative to increase trust in North Carolina’s elections infrastructure. The initiative kicks off this week and is sponsored by the Carter Center, former Democratic President Jimmy Carter’s 501(c)3, which focuses on promoting peace and democracy across the world.
Roberts, who spoke to Carolina Journal about the effort on Aug. 25, said the 2020 elections and the distrust that emerged afterwards, led the Carter Center to develop the project here in the United States using strategies they’ve applied in more troubled areas of the world.
“The Carter Center for decades, of course, has monitored elections and democracies around the world,” Roberts said. “They have been focused on peace and bolstering democracy and helping bring the lessons from how we’ve done democracy to other countries. Well, in 2020, and maybe a little before, they started hearing concerns about people’s trust in our system.”
She said around the time of the 2020 elections season, they began to build a network of people to rebuild trust in the electoral process. The Carter Center chose the swing states of North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Michigan as their focus in both the 2022 and 2024 elections. In these states, they chose high-level “influencers,” like Roberts and Orr, who they hope can get out messages saying the state and local boards of elections are trustworthy, professional, and the places to go for correct voting information.
“They’re professionals; they know what they’re doing,” Roberts said about the elections workers. “We want them to do their work peacefully. But we also see the signs of challenges, and obviously misinformation and disinformation spreads rapidly on social media, and we are trying to let the board of elections — that do have the actual information about how you fill out a ballot and when is the voting period and all that — we want to support them and make sure people are getting the right information.”
Roberts said that despite being led by the Carter Center, herself, and Orr, the N.C. Trusted Elections Tour is a bipartisan effort. She said Republican groups like the McCain Institute and the Baker Institute helped in the original discussions, and that Republican attorneys Skip Stam, formerly a top state House member; and Phil Strach, who represents the N.C. GOP in high-profile court battles, are both involved.
When asked about Democratic efforts, largely through national attorney Marc Elias, to turn state elections procedures in their own favor — specifically as it relates to voter ID, felon voting, absentee-ballot rules, redistricting, and blocking third-parties like the Green Party access to the ballot — she said there is legitimate room for disagreement on policy, but she’s confident that whatever procedures are in place will be implemented professionally and safely by the state and local elections workers.
“Your vote is secret; it is secure; you need to vote,” Roberts said. “In the end, elections are local. Your local neighbors are the ones checking you in when you vote. It’s all about restoring trust, so people vote peacefully so that we wait for election results and don’t get antsy and think that things are being stolen or undermined. Because we have professionals doing this.”
The tour will have one stop in each of North Carolina’s 14 congressional districts, starting Aug. 30 in Wake Forest and concluding in Hillsborough on Oct. 6. To learn more about the tour sites and dates, you can visit their website at www.nctrustedelections.com.