- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A coalition of advocacy groups plans to send 1,000 volunteers to monitor polls in North Carolina on Election Day, along with about 250 legal advisers who will be dispatched to counties with the thorniest voting problems.

The 2016 election marks the first time that Democracy North Carolina will have lawyers and paralegals at the ready during an election, spokeswoman Jen Jones said Thursday. During the primary earlier this year, more than 700 volunteers monitored polls for the group. In 2014, about 400 people monitored polls for the primary and for the general elections.

“Our goal is to make sure that every voter who goes to cast a ballot can cast that ballot and that those votes are counted,” Jones said. “We don’t want voters discouraged by long lines or those who would seek to intimidate voters.”

The effort comes against a backdrop of numerous voting-rights lawsuits in North Carolina, a swing state that’s garnered numerous visits from Democrats Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine and Republicans Donald Trump and Mike Pence, along with an untold number of Democratic surrogates. The most recent lawsuit filed by the state chapter of the NAACP against the State Board of Elections involves thousands of individual challenges, mainly in Cumberland County, that’s resulted in the removal of 6,649 names from voter rolls in the past 24 months.

On Wednesday, the director of the State Board of Elections said in an email that the U.S. Justice Department will send monitors to four counties: Cumberland, Forsyth, Robeson and Wake. Chief judges in the precincts must allow the federal monitors within the voting place, elections director Kim Westbrook Strach wrote.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The Justice Department has sent monitors to North Carolina counties in previous general elections, including Robeson in 2014; Alamance and Wake in 2012; Alamance in 2008; and Alamance, Scotland and Wake in 2004.

Democracy North Carolina is working with various partners, including the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice, to send the more than 1,000 poll monitors. North Carolina is one of 21 states participating in the Elections Protection Project spearheaded by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.

The director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Anita Earls, said during a conference call earlier this week that threats of voter intimidation aren’t new and typically don’t materialize. “In some ways, it seems like the real impact of the threat is just by making the threat,” she said.

Meanwhile, Republican operative Roger Stone, who runs the group “Stop the Steal,” told the Guardian that around 1,300 volunteers from Citizens for Trump would conduct exit polling in nine cities, including Charlotte and Fayetteville. A lawsuit alleges the exit polling initiative is aimed at intimidating voters of color.

Stone didn’t respond to an email from The Associated Press.

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Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at -https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc. Her work can be found at -https://bigstory.ap.org/content/martha-waggoner

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