TRANSPARENT ELECTIONS NC – (Raleigh, NC) & AUDIT Elections USA .0rg - AZ

State and nationally recognized election transparency and integrity advocates were threatened with arrest and prevented from observing routine election administration activities by Wake County election administrator Gary Sims, in violation of North Carolina State Election Law. North Carolina’s 2005 “Confidence in ElectionsAct”1 protects the rights of the public to observe election counting, stating: “Any member of the public wishing to witness the vote count at any level shall be allowed to do so.”

On May 14, Sims directed law enforcement to cite Lynn Bernstein, the founder of Transparent Elections North Carolina, and John Brakey, director of AUDIT USA, with trespassing. Sims threatened Bernstein and Brakey with arrest if they attended the public meeting at the Board of Elections on May 17. Bernstein was told by the law enforcement officer that she was banned from the premises “forever.” (Hear audio of the conversation with the law enforcement officials at this link:

“We were not able to do our jobs overseeing this election,” Bernstein said. “We were not allowed to observe the absentee meeting held on Monday and Tuesday, and we were unable to observe the tabulation of the early and absentee ballots.”

Bernstein is also concerned because Wake County is the only county she has found in North Carolina that does not allow observers on Election Night. “They did $4 million worth of renovations to the elections building at taxpayers’ expense,” Bernstein said, “including a huge, beautiful new observation room. That observation room will be empty on Election Night because no observers are allowed in the building.”

“Elections belong to the public and North Carolina law wisely recognized the rights of citizens to observe the election process,” Bernstein said. “These are my rights under North Carolina and under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants U.S. Citizens the due process right to observe the functions of government.”

“The elections office is a public facility,” said John Brakey, Director of AUDIT Elections USA, founded in 2004, who is in Wake County from Arizona to visit Bernstein and her husband and observe today’s election. “These types of heavy-handed tactics are clearly intended to intimidate Lynn and prevent her from observing election procedures and the counting of the votes as she clearly has a right to do.”

Brakey also received a trespassing citation on May 14. He had entered the open gate to the elections facility parking lot for no more than 15 seconds when the gate started to close and he stepped back outside. Bernstein never entered the premises.

The harassment has now extended to Bernstein’s husband, Nick Bernstein, who spoke at the May 16 BOE meeting to explain to the board about the strong-arm tactics being employed against his wife. Members of the public were given 2 minutes to speak, but at 1 minute and 53 seconds into his talk, Nick Bernstein was told his time was up and by the time he had reached 2 minutes, the police had already been told to remove him from the building. (Link to Nick Bernstein’s talk to the BOE and video of his removal from the building).

“Secrecy and attempts at intimidation undermine the very confidence that election officials claim to want from voters,” Bernstein said. “I have never caused a disturbance. I have only helped provide the public oversight that is required to preserve our democracy, and the Wake County Board of Elections and Director of Elections Gary Sims have tried to prevent me from doing that every step of the way.”

“There has been concern about the harassment of election officials by the public,” Brakey said, “but what happens when the opposite is true? What happens when members of the public are harassed and intimidated by election officials? We must not allow this to continue.”

Bernstein and Brakey still plan to observe on election night at 7:30 pm at the elections office at 1200 N. New Hope Rd. in Raleigh, but aren’t sure how much they will be able to see standing on the sidewalk.

“The days of election officials standing at a podium saying that the election was perfect and to trust them because they audited themselves are over. Elections must be transparent, trackable and publicly verified,” Bernstein said.