NC election audit finds 500-plus cases of irregularity in 2016 vote

Board of Elections says results not impacted, education key to limiting ineligible ballots

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
I voted stickers sit at a polling place on Nov. 8

RALEIGH — Of the nearly 4.8 million votes cast in the state in the 2016 election 508, or 0.01 percent, were by ineligible voters, an audit released last week by the North Carolina State Board of Elections found.The audit concluded there was not any organized, widespread attempt to impact the state’s election, calling most incidents “isolated and uncoordinated.””The evidence suggests that participation by ineligible voters is neither rampant nor nonexistent in North Carolina,” the report stated. The audit said no election results were impacted.Nearly 79 percent of the 508 instances were made by felons who were ineligible to vote, according to the audit. The remainder were made up of a mix of noncitizens, double-voting and two cases of voter impersonation.The audit listed 76 of North Carolina’s 100 counties as having at least one instance of voter irregularity, with the most coming in Guilford County (63). “We appreciate the State Board of Elections’ efforts to investigate these types of irregularities, which undermine confidence in the integrity of our elections, and to share their findings with the public,” said Rep. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), the leader of the Senate. “If even one fraudulently cast ballot effectively disenfranchises a legitimate voter, then that is one too many, and that’s why we continue to support commonsense policies like voter ID that improve voter confidence.”The vast majority of cases — 441 in all — were by ineligible felons. North Carolina law states convicted felons can have their voting rights restored, but only once their entire sentence — prison time, parole, probation and/or restitution — is complete.The report stated some of those votes were made by people who did know they had lost their right to submit a ballot due to their conviction. Under state law, a felon can still be convicted for voting illegally even if they were unaware that their voting rights had been taken away. So far, 16 cases of felons illegally voting in the 2016 election have been referred to district attorneys, and 425 were still being investigated and expected to be referred, the audit stated.The audit said educating felons on their voting rights and updating elections software are two steps that could alleviate the problem.In all, 41 non-U.S. citizens from 28 different countries voted illegally in North Carolina. They came from every continent but Antarctica. Two of the 41 were listed as coming from an unknown country of origin.The North Carolina election audit said some of the 24 cases of double-voting appeared to be “testers” trying to find a way to beat the system, while others attempted to “brush past the law to support their candidate by any means necessary.” Some voted twice because they believed their property ownership in multiple districts should allow them to cast ballots in each, the audit stated.The two reported cases of voter impersonation were the result of a family member voting for a deceased relative. In one case, an investigation found a woman mailed in an absentee ballot for her hospitalized husband after she and his family witnessed him show his desire to vote. She purposely left the ballot unsigned, saying she misunderstood the directions. Following her husband’s death, she received another ballot from her county board of elections — all names and locations were redacted from the report — to be completed because the initial ballot was not signed, and she later signed his name and hand-delivered it.In the other instance, a woman said she cast a vote for Donald Trump for her deceased mother as a fulfillment of her dying wish. Using her power of attorney, the daughter cast the ballot following her mother’s death because an absentee ballot had not arrived in time. Prosecutors have already decided not to pursue that case.Trump, who won the presidency with 304 electoral votes, called for a “major investigation” of voter fraud after it was revealed he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million. Trump’s claims of “millions of people who voted illegally” have thus far been unsubstantiated and there has not yet been a federal investigation.Of the 508 illegal votes, 326 (54 percent) were registered Democrats, compared to 91 Republican (15 percent), 87 unaffiliated (14 percent) and four Libertarians.