From a release by Democracy North Carolina today: “Something very strange happened in the final version of the State Budget that House and Senate leaders rolled out yesterday. It eliminates provisions in earlier versions passed by the House and Senate to provide about $600,000 that would automatically release over $4 million in federal funds for improving North Carolina’s election system for 2012. The $4 million from the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is already in a North Carolina bank account, frozen until matching State money is appropriated. The federal funds could be used to pay for voting machine maintenance, software and upgrades, poll workers training, and Early Voting locations. But apparently the legislative leaders decided they would rather starve local election boards than free up money that could open more Early Voting sites for the 2012 election! County election boards already must pay more than $5 million to operate the second primary in July. Without the HAVA funds, they must get their county commissioners to pay annual machine maintenance fees that add up to $3 million statewide, beginning July 1. In addition, they face the headache of administering the November elections with new district maps, including hundreds of split precincts that complicate ballots and add to voter confusion and delays.” Read the whole release and this news story based on it from the Raleigh News & Observer.