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Sharpsburg: A Case Study In Voter Disenfranchisement

A picture of people in voting booths
Joe Shlabotnik
Flickr Creative Commons

Last November, some voters in the small Eastern North Carolina town of Sharpsburg showed up to the polls but were unable to cast ballots. Due to a technical error, the Wilson County Board of Elections only printed 12 ballots for their precinct, even though that precinct has over 200 eligible voters. The mayoral race was decided by three votes, and the man who lost has since successfully challenged the results in court.

Sharpsburg will have another election in May, but what can this case study illuminate about the state of voter disenfranchisement in North Carolina? The North Carolina State Board of Elections is responsible for stepping in in situations like this, but due to Governor Cooper’s legal challenge to changes the state legislature wanted to make, the state elections agency has not had a board in place since June 2017.

Host Frank Stasio talks to Mike Cooper, a reporter for Scalawag Magazine who authored a new piece on the Sharpsburg mayoral election. Stasio also talks to Josh Lawson, general counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, about how often communities are calling on the elections board, only to get no answer. He is also joined by Ted Shaw, a professor at the UNC School of Law, about voter disenfranchisement in the state.

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