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For the Record

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No voter fraud in North Carolina? Check provisional ballots

From N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest:

As the General Assembly debates the Voter-Photo ID bill, you will hear opponents say that there is little to no evidence that voter fraud is taking place in North Carolina. One only has to look at my race for lieutenant governor to see the absurdity of this argument.

Out of 4.3 million ballots cast in my race, there were just over 50,000 provisional ballots cast. Provisionals are ballots cast outside of the regular process, in part because the voter went to the wrong polling site or because they were unable to prove they were who they said they were. They are allowed to cast a ballot, but that ballot is not counted until after the election is over when the Board of Elections has more time to scrutinize the ballot.

Traditionally in our state, 50 percent of the provisional ballots are thrown out during the provisional ballot counting process because the Board of Elections cannot verify that the voter exists. True to historical averages, in my race, more than 28,000 of the provisional ballots were deemed inappropriate and cast out of the final vote tally. I won my race by only 6,858 votes. The number of provisional ballots thrown out was more than enough to sway the decision of my race – win or lose.

Counting provisional ballots is highly subjective and is conducted at the county level and controlled by a two-to-one majority of the party whose governor is in office. Policies that govern election law should strive for objective outcomes, not subjective ones. The provisional ballot process is highly subjective and a Photo ID bill would work to limit the amount of fraudulent provisional ballots cast in the first place.

Don’t let opponents of this bill tell you that fraud doesn’t happen in N.C. elections. More than 28,000 ballots in my race were thrown out because the Board of Elections couldn’t verify the voter actually existed. That means 28,000 people tried to vote who did not have the legal right or residency to cast that ballot.

The opponents of the voter identification bill rarely discuss the provisional ballot process because it would prove the point of those of us pushing for a photo identification bill – that fraud is happening in North Carolina. The next time you hear someone speak against a photo-voter identification requirement, ask them what their plan is to stop the fraud from happening in the provisional ballot process. If they claim fraud is not happening, ask them for their definition of fraud. If half of all provisional ballots are rejected due to the inability to prove identity or residency, is that not proof of fraud?

Voting is a bedrock foundational right of citizens of North Carolina and the United States. Let’s protect this right by putting safeguards in place to ensure fairness and integrity in the voting process.

Views expressed in For The Record are the writer’s, and not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.
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