Absent from the proposed budget is a previously-included $664,000 appropriation that would automatically release $4 million in federal funds to maintain and improve the state’s election system.
Democracy North Carolina, a liberal-leaning election advocacy group, is pressing Republican leaders for pulling the allocation that would keep the state in line with guidelines set under the Help America Vote Act. The act was passed in 2002 as a reaction to controversy in the 2000 presidential election that brought phrases like "dimpled chad" into the country’s lexiconto front pages around the country. Under the act; states must allocate some money to take advantage of federal money already set aside. Previous versions of the House and Senate budgets included the funding, but it has been struck from the current proposal.
Bob Hall, Democracy NC’s executive director, distributed a press release warning of impending problems on election day and claiming that counties will be on the hook for $3 million for maintenance of machines alone.
"It will hit counties that are under budget strain already," Hall said in an interview. "It means less precincts, longer lines, more voter disenfranchisement."
Jack Hudson, president of Election Boards Association of North Carolina, said the organization he leads previously sent House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger and other legislative leaders thank-you notes for having the funds in previous versions of the budget. Hudson said the decision to pull back at the last minute will leave counties like those his home of Transylvania County scrambling to find the money elsewhere.
"Every county in the state is going to have to pony up," Hudson said. "It would’ve been almost a 7 to 1 benefit you get. There’s not many of that sort of deal that I know anything about. ... It’s bewildering to walk away."