Even if you believe that all is well with voting machines in North Carolina and how the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) handles election data, our election systems are only as secure as the people running them allow them to be.

That is why election observers and other volunteers are vital to ensuring our elections are conducted with transparency and integrity. Election observers are appointed by their respective political parties to monitor what happens at early “one-stop” voting sites and precinct polling places and report on any problems they witness.

The importance of election observers was inadvertently emphasized by the SBE when it twice sought to suppress the number of observers during and after the 2020 election.

Under North Carolina law, each party may appoint up to two observers every four hours. For a typical 11.5-hour day of early voting, that would mean each party could appoint up to six observers, while they could appoint up to eight precinct-specific observers per precinct on election day. 

Ahead of the early voting period in the 2020 general election, SBE General Counsel Katelyn Love told county election officials that the parties could appoint only two observers for the entire day. That policy persisted through most of early voting. The SBE only backed down from that illegal policy after Trump campaign attorney Heather Ford read the law to Love over the phone.

Incredibly, Love again tried illegally limiting the number of election observers to two per day through a change in SBE regulations just six months later. Public outrage at a hearing on the proposed change, including the threat of lawsuits, forced the SBE to back down.

So, our right to observe how our elections are conducted has been restored. However, that right is of limited use if people do not volunteer to serve as election observers. It is also of little use if those who volunteer do not know what they are doing. There are also other important election integrity tasks, such as monitoring how county boards of elections handle absentee ballots and helping vulnerable voters. All of those require trained and motivated volunteers. 

The North Carolina Election Integrity Team (NCEIT, pronounced “insight”) seeks to fill that gap by training election observers and other election integrity leaders throughout North Carolina.

To help push that effort along, the Election Integrity Network hosted the North Carolina Statewide Election Integrity Summit in partnership with NCEIT and other state and national organizations (including the John Locke Foundation) on June 10–11 in Raleigh. 

We had the opportunity to observe how summit leaders trained volunteers on how to build election integrity infrastructure in their communities. The summit included training, building grassroots teams to hold elections officials accountable, and researching left-wing groups that have integrated themselves within the State Board of Elections and county election boards. It also included training on effectively filing election complaints and protecting vulnerable voters (such as nursing home patients) from absentee ballot fraud.

And, of course, the summit included election observer training. Participants learned how volunteers in the 2021 election in Virginia politely but firmly held elections officials accountable and how the “Virginia model” can be applied in North Carolina and elsewhere. Participants also practiced skits and various scenarios that observers have encountered, such as dealing with aggressive poll workers.

NCEIT has already conducted training sessions across North Carolina to train volunteers to create local teams that will further train election observers and other election integrity volunteers in their communities. If you want to be part of the election integrity solution in North Carolina, you can contact them to see when a training session will be in your area.