When UNCG student Laura Stanley went to the early voting site at the Weatherspoon Art Museum a few weeks before the election, she wasn’t sure if she needed to bring anything. At age 20, it was her first time voting, though she had registered several months prior.
As she walked up to the polling place wearing an Obama sticker, Stanley said she approached a man holding a Romney sign and asked him what she needed to vote. Without asking her any questions —like if she was already registered — he told her she would need ID and two pieces of mail such as a bill to prove her residency. He asked her who she was voting for and she answered with “Obama,” and he reiterated that she would need ID and two pieces of mail, Stanley said.
Trusting his advice, Stanley turned around and left, not realizing until Sunday night that the information was entirely false after her mother inquired about whether she had voted and did a little digging.
It is not clear whether the man and the woman he was with outside the Weatherspoon were with the Guilford County Republican Party and the affiliated Victory campaign, but Guilford County GOP chair Al Bouldin said the party has had someone stationed at the Weatherspoon for the majority of early voting. Stanley said she overheard the woman, who wore a “Conservatives for America” hat, talking on the phone about someone coming to take over the next shift.
When asked about the advice Stanley received, Bouldin said it was true if she hadn’t voted before, even if she was already registered. Trying to explain the different requirements for first-time registrants or people in Stanley’s shoes, Bouldin falsely stated what was required each time but said he delegated those responsibilities out and added that Guilford County GOP Vice Chair Mindy Greenwood handled it for the party.
“We don’t teach them to give advice on the voting process or rules or anything like that,” Greenwood said after Bouldin passed her the phone. “They don’t have that level of training. We just tell them to be nice and courteous and to stay where they’re supposed to be and that’s sort of the only training that they get.”
Greenwood said questions about registration are usually referred to her, Bouldin, someone else in party leadership or directly to the board of elections.
“We’re not here to be experts on that,” she said, adding that people like the man Stanley encountered were just supposed to be knowledgeable on the candidates. “We’re not the board of elections so we don’t try to be. We don’t train them to know about voting, and the process and the rules with the board of elections.”
Charlie Collicutt, the deputy director with the Guilford County Board of Elections, said that while early voting registration does have a higher identification threshold, no voters are ever required to provide ID and two pieces of mail. People who are already registered and haven’t voted yet are almost never required to provide identification as Bouldin claimed, Collicutt said, except when a previously provided social security number or driver’s license number doesn’t match.
Out of 360,000 registered voters in the county, 8,000 — or 2 percent — have had to show ID in such a circumstance, he said. Students can register with a student photo ID along with a document from the school showing their name and current address, Collicutt said. While it may be easy to get confused, he said, the Romney supporter provided false information and shouldn’t have answered Stanley’s question in the first place.
“He had no knowledge of her registration status,” Collicutt said. “Even if she was a same day registrant, he’s still wrong. He is not the appropriate person to answer that question. The voters are also wading into dangerous waters when they go and ask advice from people who aren’t associated with the board of elections.”
Collicutt added that he has worked well with Bouldin and that he planned to contact Bouldin regarding the information, saying that the requirements were “complex” and that “there’s so much nuance.”
In the end, Stanley realized the error with some assistance, and said she planned to vote on Election Day. While she unknowingly passed the false information along to a friend, she said he wasn’t deterred because unlike her, he did have a document to prove his address — even though she didn’t need one.