CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – Political party “observers” are getting looser restrictions at the polls next month. This all comes from a ruling in favor of the North Carolina GOP. 

The RNC and NCGOP sued the North Carolina State Board of elections for requiring at-large observers to stay at each poll for 4 hours at a time. On Thursday, a Wake County judge sided with the NCGOP and decided at-large election observers, from each political party, should be able to travel to different polls with no time restrictions.

But before we get into the details of both sides of this case; let’s discuss the purpose of election observers. Each political party appoints people from within their party to go to the polls and observe the voting process, essentially to make sure everything is on the up and up. 

“They observe, they do not talk to they do not discuss anything with any voters, they do not see confidential information. They just sit in the corner and observe the process. And it’s been in the law for forever here in North Carolina,” said Michael Dickerson, Director of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Office

During this legal challenge, the State Board of Elections Office wanted to require the at-large observers to stay at each polling place for at least 4 hours. Currently, the law says normal observers have to do that, but the GOP argued at-large observers are not legally subjected to that time requirement. So why does the GOP care if at-large observers had to stay at a poll for four hours? QCN asked the NCGOP Chairman, Michael Whatley.

“The whole premise of us having at-large observers is so that they can go to any polling location, and go in and serve as observers, you know, for any period of time. And that really helps when you don’t have enough observers to fill every shift at every location so that they can kind of do it on a rotating basis,” Whatley said.

Each county party can appoint 10 at-large observers to go anywhere in the county on election day. Whatley explained why he thinks the State Board of Elections office wanted to require the four-hour time blocks for at-large observers.

“It basically was designed by the board of elections to reduce transparency, and to not give us the flexibility that we want to be able to rotate our at large observers throughout the county the way that we’ve been doing it for four decades,” Whatley said.

QCN reached out to the State Board of Elections Office for an interview but no one was available. They did send a statement saying in part: “We will, of course, abide by the judge’s ruling tweaking the replacement procedure for party observers. That is a polling place management issue that our bipartisan poll workers can handle.”

QCN also reached out to the North Carolina Democratic Party for comment on this legal challenge but did not get a response.