A group targeting voter fraud in North Carolina has called on the Trump administration to withdraw its nomination of Andrew Murray to be the next U.S. Attorney for what they say is his refusal to prosecute two cases of illegal voting.
Murray, the Mecklenburg district attorney, says the allegations are unfounded and that the Voter Integrity Project of Raleigh has mischaracterized his actions as well as the cases they cite.
“This office prosecutes crimes of every level every day,” Murray’s office said in a statement Monday. “But prosecuting people when sufficient evidence does not exist simply for the sake of media attention to the Voter Integrity Project’s cause … is simply wrong and unjust. This office does not – and will not – operate that way.”
In some ways, the back-and-forth reflects the polarizing national debate over the veracity of the ballot, with various sides arguing whether a problem actually exists. President Donald Trump has claimed that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, but he has not offered proof. Critics say the primary goal of the president and his commission is to make it harder for Democrat-leaning groups to vote.
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Murray, a Republican, has been nominated by Trump to become U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, which stretches from Charlotte to Asheville.
Officials with the Voter Integrity Project say they first met with Murray two years ago to ask him to prosecute two possible cases of residents voting in North Carolina and another state. Murray refused – saying he was “too busy to bother with such low-level crimes,” the group says.
“If President Trump is serious about fighting vote fraud, then he should withdraw Andrew Murray’s nomination,” said Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project. “Murray did not prosecute interstate double voting as the DA, so his being U.S. Attorney would be a disaster.”
DeLancy and Bob Diamond, a Charlotte resident and former state Senate candidate, also have called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to handle the local voter-fraud cases.
“By refusing to prosecute these cases, district attorneys promote the myth that no one commits voter fraud,” Diamond said in a press release Monday.
According to the statement released by his office, Murray had “extensive conversations” in which he informed the group’s leaders that neither case cited amounted to voter fraud because the people involved did not intentionally vote in more than one precinct.
In one of the examples, a woman registered to vote in Florida cast an absentee ballot there in 2012, then moved to Mecklenburg County where she had taken a teaching job. She arrived in time to register to vote here and then cast a Mecklenburg ballot in the 2012 election.
When notified of a possible case of double voting, Murray ordered an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, the statement says. The SBI found that the woman listed her Florida registration when she voted in Mecklenburg because “she had been told that the North Carolina vote would cancel her vote in Florida,” the statement said.
Election officials here confirmed that a voting alert should have gone from Mecklenburg to Florida. “After a review of the evidence, this office found that she did not commit a crime,” Murray’s statement said.
The other case involved a man, now 69, who traveled between Florida and Mecklenburg and “inadvertently” voted in both in 2012, the statement said. The man told investigators years later that he thought his obtaining a North Carolina driver’s license would have canceled his Florida registration (a notification was supposed to be sent to Florida). “In this case, the man did not have any intention to commit voter fraud,” the district attorney’s statement said.
Murray has prosecuted voter cases before. In 2015, former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon was indicted on voter fraud for a ballot he cast after he pleaded guilty to accepting $50,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents. That 2014 plea made Cannon a convicted felon and cost him the right to vote. But Cannon voted in the November 2014 election anyway. He later told a judge he did so inadvertently – that “the light did not come on” – yet Murray prosecuted him. Brought down from federal prison, Cannon pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor voting charge in 2015. Under state law, prosecutors don’t have to prove intent in voting cases involving convicted felons.
Mecklenburg elections chief Michael Dickerson said the county operates a “very vigorous” oversight of the voting rolls. Murray’s office, according to Dickerson, “takes this stuff very seriously and has always been great to us.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity continues to meet and search for examples of widespread voting fraud.
Whether the allegations of Murray being soft on voting scofflaws will affect his expected selection as U.S. Attorney is unclear. The offices of North Carolina Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, who sent Murray’s name to the White House, did not respond to emails seeking comment on Monday. Murray is expected to be approved by the U.S. Senate later this year.
A report from the N.C. Board of Elections found that 508 ineligible ballots were cast statewide in the 2016 election – out of 4.8 million votes overall. Most of the illicit votes were submitted by felons serving active sentences.