NAACP Branches President Rev. Dr. William J. Barber today requested the State Board of Elections “carefully monitor” the runaway Pasquotank Board of Elections, and if the State Board determines that a pattern of voter harassment and intimidation exists between Republican activists and the Board to suppress the African American vote, that two members of the Pasquotank Board of Elections be removed.
The complaint to the State Board of Elections is attached below.
Rev. Barber demanded the Pasquotank Board of Elections stop the witch hunt against the Rivers family in Elizabeth City and that Michele Aydlett, a Democrat, and Betsy Meads, a Republican, be removed from their appointed positions to the Pasquotank Board of Elections.
The North Carolina NAACP, which leads over 100 adult and youth branches across the State, called upon its Branches and its 85 partner organizations in the People’s Coalition it has organized to demand justice for Elizabeth City Councilperson Kirk Rivers and his family, for the Pasquotank Board of Elections to stop its continued attack on Mr. Rivers, and for the bodies which appoint the members of the Elections Board to remove said Board members if they refuse to obey the well-documented Election Laws.
Councilperson Rivers has lived in Elizabeth City’s 4th Ward his whole life. His father, Raymond Rivers, was the long-time President of the Elizabeth City NAACP Branch, and his mother was a long time council person. Kirk Rivers has been an NAACP activist his entire life—with his home always in the 4th Ward. In 2007 he was re-elected by a large margin over a white woman candidate, to serve his home Ward on the City Council for his third four-year term.
The defeated candidate’s husband, a Republican activist, filed a legal challenge against Councilperson Mr. Rivers, alleging he did not maintain his permanent domicile in the 4th Ward at the time of the election and should be removed from office.
Mr. Rivers married Ms. Nina Griffin last year and at the time of the 2007 election, the couple was renovating their wedding home they had bought in the 4th Ward. While the work on their new home was going on, the newly-weds camped out at her parents' house outside the 4th Ward. It was clear to all that Mr. (and Mrs.) Rivers did not intend to make the home of her parents their permanent residence.
In fact, it was clear that their permanent residence was the house they were renovating in the 4th Ward. In the face of this strong evidence and common sense which showed Kirk Rivers never intended to leave the 4th Ward, two Pasquotank Board of Election members--Michele Aydlett and Betsy Meads--ruled Mr. Rivers was not a resident of the 4th Ward, and struck his voter registration at that address.
The City Council then removed him from his seat on the City Council. Mr. Rivers appealed to the Superior Court, which granted his petition to reverse the Board. The Superior Court ruled:
Clearly he had not abandoned that domicile and had not actually resided in the new domicile so he had not yet acquired a new domicile.
The North Carolina election law clearly provides that residency only changes when there is an intent to make that change permanent. Kirk Rivers is and always has been a resident of the Fourth Ward. The Superior Court admonished the Elections Board for not following the law. "That's the law and that should have been considered by the Board."
The Court went on to instruct the Elections Board, if it wanted to, that it may take further evidence on the limited question of whether Mr. Rivers intended to make his in-laws' house his permanent home.
Now, apparently in a fit of sour grapes, the Elections Board has issued subpoenas to 24 people, including two City Council members, the Director of Parks and Recreation, the Director of Public Utilities, the City Clerk, the Electric Superintendent, the Chief of Police, a Captain in the City Police Department, and the Chief Building Inspector. The Elections Board is in violation of the Superior Court order. It has set out to open up a second wave of harassment on Mr. Rivers, his family and friends, and other key African American leaders during the important election season. The pre-textual charge is that Mr. Rivers committed perjury when he voted in the Primary of May of 2008. This separate allegation was heard and dismissed where many of the subpoenaed officials already testified.
The NAACP finds it intriguing that the same man who challenged Mr. Rivers’ eligibility to represent the 4th Ward where he had lived his whole life, also found it necessary to challenge the domiciles of 18 African American students at Elizabeth City State University, a historically black college, to vote in municipal elections. Mr. Gilbert’s challenge to the young Black voters was also thrown out—although he and the Elections Board harassed them with subpoenas to make them prove their residency.
"Mr. Gilbert’s flawed interpretations of the law always seem to be directed toward African American young people who are exercising their constitutional rights to vote and participate in governmental decisions,” said Rev. Barber, NAACP State President. "In a period in which most election officials are preparing for an election season where turnout numbers are expected to break records, the Pasquotank Board of Elections, which should be encouraging this new wave of interest and participation, spends a disproportionate amount of time with barking up dead-end legal alleys. The NAACP of North Carolina, like the U.S. Constitution, believes that all Elizabeth City residents have the right to be represented by their elected candidates of choice.”
Dr. Barber concluded his statement with a clear demand: “The NAACP calls for the removal of Pasquotank County Board of Election members Michele Aydlett and Betsy Meads if they refuse to follow the law. Stop this frivolous witch hunt against the Rivers family.”