Public Interest Legal Foundation filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of VIP-NC after the group found Wake County’s voter rolls contained more than the number of residents eligible to vote, including tens of thousands of inactive voters.
North Carolina’s state law requires local elections boards to remove inactive voters from registration rolls if they don’t respond to mailers and fail to participate in four consecutive federal elections.
“Inactive voters are the modern-day ‘dead voter,’ meaning that anybody can walk in and vote in their name simply by reciting the name and address of that voter, with no ID required,” VIP-NC director Jay DeLancy said.
“Other counties in North Carolina should take note that requests for public information and obligations to maintain clean rolls must be met. In the future, election officials across North Carolina should take seriously their obligation to comply with all provisions in the National Voter Registration Act.”
A Post-Election Audit Report by North Carolina’s State Board of Elections shows 508 illegal votes cast in the 2016 general election:
441 cases of voting by suspected active felons
41 non-citizens cast ballots
24 substantiated cases of double-voting
Two cases of voter impersonation
According to the report, the non-citizens found to have illegally voted “were matched to the Department of Homeland Security’s [SAVE] database using information obtained from the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).” Such matching done prior to the election could have eliminated ineligible non-citizens from the voter rolls before they cast illegal ballots.
The NCSBE also reported that mail ballot “irregularities” in Bladen County have been referred to federal prosecutors for criminal investigation.
Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, urged public officials not to be complacent.
“If it weren’t a problem, the number would be zero,” he said. “Not only is it above zero, but [it includes] things that are not supposed to be able to happen, like dead people voting. That’s supposed to be a punchline.”
North Carolina’s newly elected Democrat Governor and Attorney General are attempting to stop the state’s U.S. Supreme Court appeal to reinstate its voter ID law that was initiated by the previous governor, Republican Pat McCrory, but it’s not clear if their efforts to keep the election integrity measure blocked will work or are even legal.
Governor Roy Cooper and state Attorney General Josh Stein “sent a letter on Tuesday dismissing private attorneys who had been representing the state in an appeal of a ruling last year by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found key provisions of a 2013 elections law overhaul unconstitutional. . . . But state lawmakers countered that the private attorneys represent the state, not Cooper and Stein, making their move to discharge the attorneys invalid.”
Thomas Farr, a Raleigh attorney who has represented the lawmakers for several years in the elections law case, sent a letter to William McKinney, Cooper’s general counsel, arguing that neither the governor nor Stein have the authority to discharge him and others at his firm from the case and that he and others plan to continue in the case.
Regardless of efforts by Cooper and Stein, the State Board of Elections and its executive director and members continue to be parties to the case, and Republican General Assembly members who sponsored the legislation can petition to intervene in the case to continue the SCOTUS review process.
Republican House and Senate leaders were quick to criticize Cooper and Stein’s move to dismiss outside counsel representing the state in its bid to reinstate the law:
“Roy Cooper’s and Josh Stein’s desperate and politically-motivated stunt to derail North Carolina’s voter ID law is not only illegal, it also raises serious questions about whether they’ve allowed their own personal and political prejudices and conflicts of interest to cloud their professional judgment,” Phil Berger, the Rockingham County Republican who leads the Senate, and Tim Moore, the Cleveland County Republican at the head of the House, said in a joint statement.
They may never admit it, but the civil rights industry is tired of spending millions of dollars only to lose most voter ID fights in court. Instead of declaring defeat, the strategy has shifted to changing the rules of engagement, and trying to transform the Voting Rights Act into something it isn’t. . . .
The civil rights industry, which includes swarms of career employees in the Justice Department, has been losing voter ID fights for the better part of a decade. . . .courts have acknowledged that such laws do not target minorities and are equally applied to all. It certainly does not hurt that federal judges are aware that polling shows how voter ID is more popular among poorer minorities than wealthy liberal whites.
Because voter ID is overwhelmingly popular, and because courts have largely supported it, they are trying to change what the Voting Rights Act means. They are trying to transform the law away from a protecting against real world disenfranchisement, to a statistical game that aims to protect Democratic political power. If an election theoretically has a disparate impact on Democrats, then the Voting Rights Act is violated.
They can press this ugly transformation of America’s most important civil rights law because they have spent 30 years stoking the flames of racial polarization and trying to make “black” synonymous with “Democrat.”
In April 2016, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a 485-page ruling dismissing all claims in the challenge to the state’s 2013 omnibus election reform bill that included voter ID, but in August the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling “by substituting its own version of the facts, even though appeals courts don’t see witnesses, and even though experts for the United States were found to be not credible. This difference between two courts was because of how the Voting Rights Act was read.”
Before the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that existing federal preclearance obligations were based on outdated justifications — an action in popular press falsely branded as “gutting the Voting Rights Act” — North Carolina was held to a standard of guilty-until-proven innocent any time that it wished to change even the slightest election procedure. . . .
North Carolina’s election laws are no longer supposed to be judged on those unconstitutional standards, thanks to Shelby. But that didn’t stop the court of appeals from using a bold new version of the Voting Rights Act that imported those obsolete standards. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the surviving provisions, requires real world causality, where someone actually suffers electoral defeat or denial of the right to vote. The law requires a real world “totality of circumstances” inquiry, not statistical games.
The dispute over how to read and enforce the most critical component of the Voting Rights Act has now landed on the Supreme Court’s doorstep. The Public Interest Legal Foundation and others have submitted briefs to support North Carolina’s request for a hearing on its voter ID law. The court of appeals transformed the Voting Rights Act into something it is not. In doing so, it converted the law into a raw partisan weapon that will be used to help Democrats.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday put a court-ordered legislative redistricting and 2017 special election on hold while it reviews Republican legislators’ appeal in an ongoing lawsuit.
A lower federal court ruled months ago that the current legislative districts are an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, and it ordered the General Assembly to draw new districts by March 15 and hold a rare off-year election in altered districts this November.
Tuesday’s Supreme Court order puts that order on hold at least until a Jan. 19 conference among the justices at which they will consider an appeal seeking to keep the current districts in place.
State legislators responded along party lines, with Republican House and Senate leaders saying in a joint statement, “We are grateful the U.S. Supreme Court has quashed judicial activism and rejected an attempt to nullify the votes of North Carolinians in the 2016 legislative elections,” while disappointed Democratic Rep. Graig Meyer said, “For Democrats, this is a setback in our plans for winning back power in the legislature, but it does not stop our momentum.”
Black voters in Virginia and North Carolina contended that political maps illegally pack those voters into a small number of districts, eliminating African Americans’ ability to influence results in adjacent contests. Republicans lawmakers who drew the maps say they intended to comply with the Voting Rights Act, which has been read to prohibit eliminating safe districts for minority incumbents, or to harm Democrats for partisan, rather than racial, reasons.
While it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, the Supreme Court has never held it unconstitutional to disadvantage voters for partisan reasons. Monday’s cases, as several justices remarked, were difficult to resolve partly because of the political reality that race and partisan preference are strongly aligned.
“It is a very tough matter,” observed Justice Stephen Breyer, summarizing the questions with which the justices were grappling today. Federal law permits (and sometimes requires) states to consider race when drawing district lines, to create legislative districts in which a majority of voters are members of a minority group, but at the same time the Constitution bars states from making race the predominant factor when drawing districts. “No one,” Breyer continued, “seems to have a good answer to” the dilemma facing the Supreme Court – how courts should determine when the use of race becomes sufficiently pervasive that it crosses over to become unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, particularly when race correlates closely with political party.
SCOTUS will have an answer, if not a good one, by summer.
“We have an obligation to ensure that every vote is counted accurately and that our elections process is conducted legally,” said McCrory. “Any verified instance of voter fraud or other illegal activity should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Though it dismissed the protest, the SBOE voted unanimously to send evidence its investigators uncovered to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The lawsuit states that “notwithstanding the requirements of the law, applications submitted through the SDR process are not verified before the ballots cast by those applicants are counted” and that “reliable data show that the problem of unverified registrants is significant. There exists a higher rate of SDR applicants failing the mail verification process as compared to the ordinary registration process. A 2015 study by the Board found that the failure rate for SDR applicants in the 2012 general election was 2.44% as compared to a rate of 0.34% for non-SDR registrants.”
A report on the referenced 2015 study is attached to the election protest Civitas filed with the SBOE.
Civitas also notes that in its decision enjoining North Carolina’s repeal of same day registration (N. Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals cited evidence that fully 3% of SDR applicants fail the mail verification process.
With more than 90,000 ballots cast via same day registration in the 2016 general election, a similar failure rate would yield 3,000 invalid ballots, enough to change the outcomes of close races – which is why the state’s General Assembly passed a law eliminating the practice.
Civitas President Francis De Luca, the plaintiff in the suit, said, “To count ballots without verification of same-day registration information discriminates by treating one class of voters differently from another. Furthermore, this calls into question the outcome of close elections such as the one we are still in the middle of in North Carolina. Legitimate voters should never have their votes cancelled by illegitimate voters. The State Board of Elections should examine every ballot cast via same-day registration to verify that every vote cast is genuine and legitimate.”
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s campaign is filing protests in 50 counties of votes it says were fraudulently cast in the names of deceased people or by felons or people who voted more than once.
“Now we know why Roy Cooper fought so hard against voter ID and other efforts to combat voter fraud as attorney general,” said Russell Peck, McCrory’s campaign manager. “With each passing day, we discover more and more cases of voting fraud and irregularities. We intend to make sure that every vote is properly counted and serious voter fraud concerns are addressed before the results of the election can be determined.”
These complaints are in addition to allegations in 12 counties, including Bladen County, that people paid by North Carolina Democratic Party-funded political action committees filled out fraudulent absentee ballots for Democrat candidates.
The pending protests mean several counties will miss the Friday deadline for canvassing votes, leaving the outcome of the close governor’s race up in the air.