Evidence Doesn't Support McCrory's Concerns of Statewide Voter Fraud
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has officially asked for a recount in his re-election race against Attorney General Roy Cooper. The latest tally has him about 6,000 votes behind Roy Cooper as counties sort through complaints and certify election results. McCrory said in his letter to the state Board of Elections he has "serious concerns of potential voter fraud emerging across the state." But what are the complaints and what is the validity of them? WFAE's Lisa Worf addresses these questions in this segment with Morning Edition host Marshall Terry.
MT: So, Lisa, just remind us what these allegations are?
LW: A lot of the people who file the protests list people who they say are dead, voted in multiple states or are not eligible to vote because they're felons. Those account for most of the challenges. There are also complaints about voting machines, how election workers did their jobs, and absentee ballots. A protest over absentee votes in Bladen County led to challenges in other counties about the counting of absentee ballots.
MT: Several county boards of elections have already investigated these complaints. What have they found?
LW: Many of those results are still coming in. But let's begin with Mecklenburg County. There were three protests this year. One filed by a Mecklenburg GOP leader said three voting machines failed on Election Day. That indeed was the case and isn't unusual. Two of those machines never started up and, as for the third one that people did vote on... election officials on election night verified those votes were correctly uploaded. Another protest was over how the county did their sample audit to check for irregularities. Election officials looked at the screen images, instead of the paper audit log, spit out by the machine...which is pretty standard. The third complaint is over two people said to be felons, and therefore shouldn't be voting. Election Director Michael Dickerson says one of them ended up only having a misdemeanor and therefore can vote. The other was indeed a felon and shouldn't have voted.
MT: The McCrory campaign and Republican Party are making a lot of allegations of fraud, even though federal judges have ruled there's little to no evidence of voter fraud in North Carolina. Is there any sign of this being an indication of widespread voter fraud?
LW: No, certainly not from what I can see. Here's what happened in Mecklenburg County. Election officials get a report every month of people who need to be taken off the voter rolls because of felony convictions. In this case, that conviction came up the first week of October and Dickerson says it didn't show up on that month's report. However, it was on November's report that they just got. These felony complaints are interesting. Of course, you can't vote if you're on probation or parole for a felony conviction. A tally by Democracy North Carolina shows 43 people in 20 counties had their votes challenged because of this. The group cross-checked that with state public safety records and found 18 are not serving felony sentences and 13 are on probation for misdemeanor violations and so can vote.
MT: What about complaints of dead people voting?
LW: Yes, you often hear about that and there were many complaints of this filed. A Republican in Cabarrus County challenged the votes of five dead people....all of whom voted early according to state Board of Elections records. We found obituaries for four of the voters, ranging in age from 62 to 96 years old. In three of the cases, the obituaries show they died after they voted. In the fourth case, the mail-in vote was officially received a few days after her death, but it's reasonable to believe the vote was mailed before she died.
MT: There are several protests filed over absentee ballots. What are the complaints there?
LW: Many of them stem from this case in Bladen County...which is certainly intriguing. It wasn't centered around the governor's race. It was the race for soil and water conservation district supervisor that brought it to light. And it was the winner of that race who filed the protest. According to that filing, hundreds of absentee ballots were cast in support of a ticket of candidates including a write-in candidate for soil and water supervisor. The protest says a forensic handwriting expert analyzed them and found only a dozen handwriting styles, though only a few ballots had the box checked for voter assistance. Of these, it points out about 250 ballots linked to a Democratic-funded group called Bladen County Improvement Association PAC. Protests over absentee ballots in several other counties point to this case as reason for concern.
MT: So how many votes are actually being challenged?
LW: That's hard to put a number on. The McCrory and Cooper plans have really hard to figure out. The McCrory and Cooper campaigns have their own tallies, but....
MT: Who's challenging them?
There are several local GOP leaders who filed protests and McCrory supporters. I spoke to one woman in Mecklenburg County, Brenda Brown, who filed the protest listing two people as felons. Brown volunteered for Republican campaigns this election and past ones. She says she's been following the election process and is concerned there are holes in it.
"I was very concerned because I knew that there were things in 2012 and in previous elections that concerned me, and then at the very last minute when our voter ID election laws were overturned, I was very concerned we would see that exact same problem again that we had attempted to solve over the last four years." - Brenda Brown, Mecklenburg County resident who filed a protest to disqualify two votes
I asked her how she matched voters with criminal records. She said it’s all public record, but she was kind of elusive about how she did it and who helped her.