Voting machine (copy) (copy)

South Carolina voting machines. File 

If you want to know how not to run an election, just take a drive up the interstate. Because North Carolina is putting on a clinic.

In the past few years, federal courts have repeatedly spanked the state for its Herculean, almost comically villainous efforts to game the outcome of darn near every election. Judges have thrown out North Carolina’s voter ID law, its egregiously gerrymandered congressional districts and the Legislature’s proposed changes to early voting.

Most of these ideas were intended, one court said, to target black voters with almost “surgical precision.” You have to admit, that’s impressively shameless.

Despite myriad legal setbacks, the GOP-controlled North Carolina General Assembly has often gotten its way. How else do you explain a 10-3 advantage in congressional seats when the state is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats? But that achievement pales in comparison to the events of recent weeks.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections last week vacated the November results of the 9th Congressional District race and ordered a new election.

After months of allegations surrounding election fraud and stolen ballots in a razor-thin contest, a Republican operative was indicted on allegations of conspiracy, obstruction and illegal possession of absentee ballots.

Basically, authorities say he ordered ballots for folks, collected them from their homes and either discarded them or filled them out to help his candidate. Guess which group of voters was a focus of this fraud?

The protests that this was all malarkey went out the window when the Republican candidate’s son testified he had warned his father about the ongoing election fraud. He would know, since he’s a state prosecutor.

His dad, the candidate, conversely is an evangelical preacher.

It’s unclear what happens next because — this is not a joke — a state court recently declared the election board unconstitutional and disbanded it. See, the board was set up by the Republican Legislature when a Democrat got elected governor ... and they didn’t want him to have any control over elections. Hollywood would call this story too far-fetched, and it makes South Carolina look fairly sane.

But we have our own problems here, and today the League of Women Voters is hosting a forum at 2:30 p.m. at the main branch of the Charleston County Library to address some of them.

They will talk about the need to replace $65 million worth of voting machines that are old and unreliable — to the point that some votes were not counted in recent elections. And they will discuss recent proposals to turn over legislative and congressional redistricting to a nonpartisan, or at least bipartisan, commission.

The panel will include experts on election security, county election directors and state lawmakers. Barbara Zia, the citizen education director for the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area, says the group wants to instill voter confidence and spark more community engagement.

“When people believe their votes matter, that their voices get heard, and that their votes count as cast they are more likely to be active citizens,” Zia says. “This community forum is a chance to get answers from legislators, election officials, voting experts, and citizen activists.”

State Rep. David Mack, who will be on the panel, says this isn’t a partisan issue — it’s about maintaining the integrity of the process. “When you have problem with voting machines, and people with their votes not counted, that’s just wrong,” Mack says. “If people believe in the country and the Constitution, they we have to be very serious about fixing that.” He’s exactly right.

For years, conservatives have claimed there was rampant voter fraud. But the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was scuttled prematurely and has gone to court to keep its findings private. Probably because there is no evidence of massive voter fraud.

But North Carolina proves there is plenty of election fraud out there, and it probably isn’t confined to the Tar Heel State.

So South Carolina needs to address these issues, invest in fair elections and do the opposite of everything our neighbors to the north are doing.

Well, almost everything. At least North Carolina is getting new voting machines this year.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.