Election protests filed

Published 10:39 am Monday, November 21, 2016

Allegations of fraudulent absentee ballots, votes cast by deceased individuals and/or convicted felons, and by individuals who allegedly voted more than once in the 2016 General Election have prompted multiple protests being filed across the state.

Those protests have been lodged in over one-half of the state’s 100 counties, to include Bertie, Gates and Northampton. As of Friday afternoon, no type of protest had been filed in Hertford County regarding these allegations.

The volume of those protests have also led the North Carolina Board of Elections to issue a statement regarding state law that established yesterday (Friday, Nov. 18) as the date for local certification of election results in the state’s 100 counties. This initial canvass of results confirms that all votes have been counted and tabulated correctly. That is followed by a final certification of statewide totals by the State Board of Elections.

Counties may, however, delay canvass for a “reasonable time” if the initial counting has not been completed.

“Many, if not all, counties are expected to do just that,” the State Board said in a press release sent Thursday.

Northampton County is among those counties opting for a delay in the canvass process.

“Our board has decided to conduct the canvass on Monday (Nov. 21),” said Northampton Board of Elections Director Susie Squire.

She added the delay was necessary due to a voter registration issue through a service offered by North Carolina DMV, rather than the protest lodged in Northampton.

As for that protest, Squire said it involved mail-in absentee ballots.

“While I was out of the office on Wednesday, someone came in identifying themselves from the Republican Party and wanted to see the absentee ballots and the envelopes they were in, but they did not explain what they were looking for,” Squire said.

Elections officials in Bertie, Gates, and Hertford counties have also opted to delay their respective canvass until Nov. 21.

Meanwhile, the State Elections office said in the final days of early voting, which ended on Nov. 5, a federal court required election officials and the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to create a new review process for certain voters who claim they registered or changed their address at the DMV, even if no record of registration could be found.

The State Board acted immediately to create necessary procedures and to print special materials for North Carolina’s 2,700 precincts in the week before Election Day. The order requires counties to approve a provisional ballot if the voter affirms they either registered or changed their address at the DMV, unless DMV can locate a signed form declining voter registration services during a certain period of time. The process of locating that data remains ongoing.

Earlier this week, campaign officials for incumbent Governor Pat McCrory alleged the discovery of North Carolina Democrat Party-funded political action committees (PACs) which appear to have paid individuals to fill out and witness hundreds of fraudulent absentee ballots for Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper, in Bladen County and potentially 11 other counties, to include Northampton.

In addition to Bladen and Northampton, protests regarding mail-in absentee ballots were lodged by registered voters in Halifax, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Guilford, Nash, Robeson, Vance, Wake and Warren counties. 

The protests urge each county board of elections conduct a full scale investigation into these absentee ballots and review all witness signatures on these absentee ballot envelopes to look for evidence of obvious ballot harvesting, which could impact thousands of votes. These protests also request that the county election boards conduct this review before certifying the final number of lawful votes during their respective canvasses.

In addition to funneling money to the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC, the North Carolina Democratic Party simultaneously transferred money to political action committees in the 11 counties. Similar absentee voting and handwriting patterns as in Bladen County have been discovered in at least one of these counties, suggesting these PACs may have been harvesting and witnessing multiple absentee ballots as well.

“It appears that our worst fears have come true and this absentee ballot fraud scheme may run deeper than just Bladen County,” said Russell Peck, Pat McCrory’s campaign manager. “Unfortunately, we may also have uncovered the real reason Roy Cooper fought so hard against efforts to prevent voter fraud as attorney general. These voter fraud concerns must be addressed before the results of the election can be finalized.”

In Bladen County it is alleged that duplicate handwriting appeared on mail-in ballots. In one case, a single absentee ballot witness personally validated at least 67 mail-in ballots.

According to the State Board of Elections, absentee ballots were eligible to be counted if they were postmarked by Election Day and received by the end of business Monday (Nov. 14. Military and overseas ballots were accepted through Thursday (Nov. 17).

Also this week, protests were filed by registered voters in 50 counties in an effort to void anywhere between 100 to 200 ballots allegedly cast by suspected felons, dead people and double voters. In addition to such protests filed in Bertie and Gates, other eastern North Carolina counties included Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Craven, Edgecombe, Greene, Halifax, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Pitt, Robeson, Warren and Wayne.

The State Board added that postponing canvass is necessary, “when certain decisions have not been made regarding provisional ballots, certain types of election protests are pending, or a delay is necessary to comply with a judicial order. The counties have good reason to extend their canvasses this year, including a recent court order.”

State BOE officials added they are aware of a number of election protests have been filed with county boards of elections across the state.

“If the protest concerns the counting of ballots, county boards should meet as soon as possible to determine whether there is probable cause that a violation or irregularity occurred. If so, the boards will conduct a full hearing on the protest. Protests can result in different outcomes, including dismissal, re-tabulation, or other options spelled out in G.S. § 163-182.10. Appeals are to the State Board of Elections,” the State BOE stated in a press release.

The State Board of Elections works with all 100 county Boards of Elections to ensure elections are conducted lawfully and fairly.

“The canvassing process ensures that elections are fair and results are reliable,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board. “This agency will do what is necessary to protect the integrity of the election and give confidence to all North Carolinians.”

After each county conducts their individual canvass, a statewide candidate who trails by 10,000 votes or fewer may demand a recount by noon on the second business day (after the canvass process concludes). If a recount is demanded, the counties would conduct recounts individually in public view.

The still unofficial tally from the Nov. 8 General Election showed McCrory trailing Cooper by 4,879 votes out of over 4.5 million cast during the election cycle. Through the current process in all 100 counties of certifying provisional and mail-in ballots, Cooper’s lead has grown to 5,141 votes (as of 1:40 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18).

The State Board of Elections is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29 for the statewide canvass.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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