As the N.C. State Board of Elections looks into thousands of possible cases of voter fraud in North Carolina, a voter rights group urged state lawmakers Monday not to respond to the “hysteria” by passing new laws restricting voting.
Bob Hall, executive director of Durham-based Democracy North Carolina, said there may be other explanations – aside from voter fraud – for why a recent cross-check of 28 states’ voter databases turned up 35,750 North Carolina voters whose names and birth dates match those of registered voters in other states who cast ballots in both states in 2012.
To illustrate his point, Hall said during a news conference that his group identified four sitting state lawmakers whose names and dates of birth match exactly with registered voters in other states. The lawmakers include two Republicans – Rep. Charles Jeter of Mecklenburg County and Sen. Ronald Rabin of Harnett County – and Democratic Reps. Duane Hall of Wake County and Rodney Moore of Mecklenburg.
Hall said he believed the legislators did nothing wrong, acknowledging that the voters with the same personal information hadn’t voted in the other states in recent years. He said the lawmakers could have lived in those states previously and their registrations hadn’t been purged or the voters are different people.
“When you match 6.4 million registered voters in North Carolina with over 90 million records in other states, it’s not surprising that you find tens of thousands of voters with matching first and last names and birth dates who are actually two different people,” Hall said.
The Board of Elections recently participated for the first time in an interstate cross-check program administered by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. The check also identified 765 people who voted in North Carolina and another state in 2012 who had matching names, dates of birth and last four digits of Social Security numbers.
Republican members of the General Assembly have deemed the findings proof that voter fraud is occurring in North Carolina. But Hall said the cross-check program has been criticized elsewhere for producing excessive inaccurate matches and led to only a handful of prosecutions.
Hall said the legislators should “be careful about the hysteria they’re creating,” adding that it could “needlessly expose thousands of citizens to an invasive investigation and create new barriers to voting based on flawed data.”
Lawmakers have given no indication that they plan any new voting laws during this year’s short legislative session, which begins Wednesday.
Josh Lawson, a State Board of Elections spokesman, said the state board is reviewing all of the potential cases for evidence of criminal conduct, including double voting, which is a felony. So far, he said, no cases have been referred to local district attorneys or Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office.
Elections officials have said poll workers’ attribution of votes to the wrong people, data entry errors, naturally occurring instances of voters with the same names and birth dates, identity theft and voting fraud are all possible explanations.
“Both the legislature and Mr. Hall should avoid jumping to conclusions,” Lawson said.
Jeter, one of the lawmakers mentioned in Hall’s report, said he was infuriated by Hall’s news release and comments, even though Hall made it clear that he didn’t believe the lawmakers did anything wrong. “I’ve got kids in school. I’ve got family members, and they’re going to read the headline, not the story,” he said.
Jeter grew up in South Carolina and registered to vote there. He said he had notified officials there when he moved.
Jeter said he believed Hall was doing the same thing he accuses Republicans of doing – suggesting that innocent people may have committed voter fraud.
“I’m having to tell people why I’m not a crook today,” he said. “You can imagine why I’m frustrated about that.”
Patrick Gannon writes for the NCInsider.com, a news service owned by The N&O.