Unaffiliated voters shouldn't be banned from helping N.C. elections

Published August 11, 2022

By Seth Effron

EDITOR'S NOTE: Seth Effron is Capitol Broadcasting Company's opinion editor.

In the United States and particularly in North Carolina – a state where I live and a place I love – every citizen should be able to fully participate in our democracy. No one, regardless of political affiliation or more significantly -- lack thereof – should be denied that opportunity.

But today, the greatest portion of voters in North Carolina are denied by law from fully participating in the state’s elections. State law prevents anyone who isn’t a Democrat or Republican from serving on the State Board of Elections. Does anyone think that is right? They shouldn’t. It is time for this discrimination to end.

Forty years ago there were nearly 2.7 million people registered to vote in North Carolina – 72% were Democrats, 24% were Republicans. Today there are more than 7.3 million voters in the state: 34% are Democrats; 30% Republicans; and the largest portion -- 35% -- are unaffiliated.

North Carolina has changed. It is plain wrong that the biggest portion of voters in the state – regardless of who they might vote for – are denied the opportunity to participate in the administration of our elections.

This institutional prohibition keeps some voters, who would add an important perspective and offer the members of the board a chance to be viewed as more than a tool of partisan affiliates, from being able to fully engage in the election process.

It has been a problem for a long time that has now grown intolerable. I no longer feel that I can just be a bystander to a great injustice. That is why I joined as a plaintiff (in Common Cause v. Moore) to force North Carolina to open participation in the administration of our elections to EVERY voter – regardless of their political affiliation or even lack thereof.

This isn’t about weakening or strengthening any political party. It is not about helping Republicans, hurting Democrats or vice-versa.

In decision after decision, regardless of which political party might be in the majority or minority on the State Board of Elections, the votes of the members are often perceived as being what is best for the political party they’re affiliated with rather than what is best for the voters of North Carolina.

Not being in a political party doesn’t mean anyone has any less stake in the way elections are run.

There comes a time to stand up and act so that EVERY citizen has the opportunity to FULLY participate.

I joined the lawsuit challenging a state law to end an institution that silences the voices of 2.6 million voters. All citizens deserve the opportunity to fully participate in the electoral process – and that includes the oversight and administration of elections.

Neither the WRAL-TV newsroom nor the State Board of Elections had any role in this commentary nor my involvement in this lawsuit.

I do it proudly and openly. This is not to further any partisan cause, candidate or ideology. It is simply to enable as many as possible to participate as they desire in our great democracy.