This article first appeared at American Lens News on August 2, 2017.
Election protest ability of North Carolina citizens is in jeopardy despite a recent report claiming nearly 8,500 duplicate votes in the 2016 election.
A report by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) indicates that at least 8,471 votes cast in 2016 were “highly likely” duplicates.
The GAI was able to get voter roll data from only 21 states. The report says that is because some states shared the data freely while “others impose exorbitant costs or refuse to comply with voter information requests.”
The report says that a 2012 Pew Research report found, “24 million (one in eight) voter
registrations were either invalid or significantly inaccurate. About 1.8 million deceased voters were discovered on state voter rolls, and 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state.”
Key points from the report:
- Using an extremely conservative method of matching names and exact birth dates with other unique identifying information, GAI found 7,271 highly likely cases of inter-state duplicate voting.
- GAI identified an additional 1,200 cases of likely intra-state duplicate voting. Each instance represents two votes with the same voter information.
- Extending GAI’s conservative matching method to include all 50 states would indicate an expected minimum of 45,000 high-confidence duplicate voting matches.
- According to GAI’s commercial database consultant, “The probability of correctly matching two records with the same name, birth date, and social security number is close to 100 percent. Using these match points will result in virtually zero false positives from the actual matching process. If there are false positives, they would most likely be the product of errors in data sourcing and/or human error at the polling places.”
- In the process of identifying potential duplicate votes, GAI found more than 15,000 voters who registered to vote using prohibited addresses, such as post office boxes, UPS stores, federal post offices, and public buildings.
- GAI found 45,880 votes cast by individuals whose dates of birth were more than 115 years before the election.
- Hundreds of votes were cast by people whose registration birth dates “indicated they were under 18 years old at the time of the election.” Most of these votes were cast using a provisional ballot.
Rhode Island Refuses To Fix Issues
GAI said in its report that it tried to get Rhode Island election officials to participate as a test case. GAI gave the state’s election officials a list of 225 voters who were registered using “prohibited addresses.”
Rhode Island officials refused to act on the problem. The only action taken was to send a letter to their voters. According to GAI, if a contacted voter did not respond, the Rhode Island officials refused to take any further action.
Rhode Island told the institute they would have to file a “voter challenge.” To make matters worse, the state basically threatened the institute, telling them they would be charged with a misdemeanor if GAI filed a “false challenge.”
Election Protest Issues in NC
On Monday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections closed their public comment period on proposed changes to voter election protest rights in the state.
The board remains unfilled as no election board members have yet been appointed by Governor Cooper. This is due to his continued failed legal attempts to fight the creation of the Bipartisan Elections Commission Board.
Should the board positions be filled and the proposed changes be adopted, the legislature has the final say and can disapprove the changes.
Cooper did not weigh in on the hearing or propose changes.
Lt. Governor Dan Forest, however, did.
Forest also issued an official statement detailing why he opposes the changes.
Partisan Attacks From Partisan Hacks
At the hearing was self-described “nonpartisan elections advocate,” Bob Hall of the partisan, left-leaning group Democracy NC. Hall’s organization is also closely affiliated with the BluePrint NC and Moral Monday.
In comments made to media after the hearing, Hall attacked the ability for citizens to challenge elections results.
Hall said that the current protest form can be, “easily misused” and cited the dozens of protest challenges filed in the 2016 election. Others argued that was proof of checks and balances on the system.
Hall said that “they [elections protests] could be filled with innuendo and false information, which meant that they could be used as part of a propaganda campaign, not as a legal proceeding.”
Bob Hall is arguably asserting that individual reputations should be protected over the integrity of elections. Yet, according to Hall himself, apparently, not all citizens reputations are worthy of protection.
This past Spring, Hall himself smeared election protest filers of being part of a “conspiracy.”
The Proposed Changes
One of the changes proposed is similar to the chilling effect of filing a “false challenge” in Rhode Island.
The proposed rule “08 NCAC 02.0111” would rewrite the NC election protest form and place an undue burden on the filer by requiring they have legal representation.
The text reads:
“clarify the standard of review, require a certification that the facts alleged are true and accurate, and require attorneys to indicate that they represent the protester, among other things.”
This is a clear deterrent for the average citizen who likely would not be able to afford hiring legal counsel.
Another proposed rule change allows the State Board of Elections director to summarily dismiss a protest challenge before it sees its first hearing unless a local board member objects.
To add insult to injury, the new protest form would force anyone filing a protest to “serve copies of all filings on every person with a direct stake in the outcome of this protest.”
American Lens noted that in 2016, hundreds upon hundreds of college students in North Carolina were all registered to consolidated addresses. One of those addresses ended up being a gravel parking lot.
Under this new rule, had American Lens challenged those voters, we would have had to mail hundreds of letters to a parking lot. Not only that, but we would have been required to mail a copy or contact each of those students’ attorneys – if they had one.
Another change makes it nearly impossible for anyone to file a challenge. The change would make a filing challenge dependent on enough ‘questionable’ votes to change the outcome of the election.
Beyond the fact this rule opens a loophole for voter fraud a mile wide, this change would violate North Carolina state statute NCGS 163-182.10 (2)(d).
The statute says that if an election covers multiple counties, a local board can’t immediately dismiss an election protest just because their local results might not affect the outcome of an election.
As a further deterrent, the new protest form uses language that many might consider a threat to the filer. Specifically, the form uses the term “crime.”
“It is a crime to interfere unlawfully with the conduct and certification of an election.”
“It is a crime to interfere unlawfully with the ability of a qualified individual to vote and to have that vote counted in the election.”
In other words, these to clauses seem to be telling the challenger that if their claim is not proven, they are in violation of the law. Remember, other changes to the rules would make these challenges can potentially be summarily dismissed by the State Board of Elections Director.
First you make the criminal, then you punish them?
Elections Observers Under Attack
Voter watchdog group, Voter Integrity Project, recently wrote about the State Board of Elections proposed rule changes with an eye on poll observers.
The proposed code (which has the force of law) says, “an observer who leaves the voting place for any reason may be prohibited by the chief judge from returning if the observer’s return would cause a disruption in the voting enclosure.”
The article goes on to slam the State Board of Election’s Director, Kim Strach, for “rolling back” rights granted to observers by her predecessor.
While elections are a highly partisan affair, we at VIP view election integrity as a non-partisan issue; but we must point out the partisan irony of this edict. First, it comes from the Republican appointed Executive Director, Kim Strach. Her predecessor, Gary Bartlett, who had who had very few fans among the NCGOP, actually granted far more permissive rights, but the Republican, Strach is rescinding them!
Voter Integrity Project’s Jay Delancy created a video describing in detail about what the State Board is trying to do: