Elections rule would make false voter fraud reports a felony

The rule is in response to a torrent of vote challenges during the 2016 gubernatorial election, but opponents argue it goes beyond the Board of Elections powers and usurps legislative authority

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Bob Hall

RALEIGH — The North Carolina State Board of Elections held a public comment hearing Monday, soliciting input on a proposed rule that will make falsely reporting voter fraud a felony. The new rule would also require protesters to describe facts, reveal if a lawyer helped them make their claims, and say whether they have any witnesses to the alleged voter fraud.”We all know laws are written by human beings, and sometimes they’re not very clear.” said Executive Director of the N.C. Republican Party Dallas Woodhouse, who opposes the rule change. “This issue of protest is amazingly clear in the statute. It is written specifically how to do it and what is required of the voter. [The State Board of Elections] does not have the power to rewrite the statute.”The legislature can overrule any rules the board adopts if they find they do not comply with existing statutes.During the extended and contentious gubernatorial election of 2016 between then-incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, now-Gov. Roy Cooper, more than 600 complaints were filed in 50 counties alleging voter fraud.Bob Hall, executive director of the left-leaning voting rights group Democracy North Carolina, contends that the vast majority of those alleged fraud complaints were wrong. Hall said at the Monday hearing that Republican actors were using fraud charges for personal political gain.On the other hand, Woodhouse argued that the changes, beyond being outside of the board’s legal jurisdiction, would having a cooling affect on voters’ ability to contest fraud. Hundreds of cases of voter fraud were ultimately confirmed during the 2016 elections, most being votes cast by felons.”We have a constitutional, legally set up system that is important to make sure that people aren’t registered twice, to make sure they’re registered correct, they’re not voting as felons when they’re not supposed to,” said Woodhouse. “The citizens, and the citizens putting in protests, are the only check on this kind of thing. There is no other check. If you remove the citizens’ ability to do this, there is nobody else who can provide a check on the process. I am concerned that advocates on the other side … are doing everything they can to shut common, everyday citizens out of the process.”The board also heard suggestions from voters on rule changes that would address curbside voting, election observers and the return of absentee ballots.While staff will compile the thousands of public comments for the new elections board to weigh, the members of that board have yet to be named by Cooper. The new board, a combination of the elections and ethics boards enacted by the General Assembly in late 2016, is the subject of one of the many lawsuits brought by Cooper upon taking office to push back against Republican supermajorities in the legislature.