Staff from the N.C. State Board of Elections discussed ways to improve the maintenance of voter rolls before a legislative committee on Wednesday and said they were investigating possible cases of voting irregularities.
Kim Strach, director of the elections board, presented the findings of a recent crosscheck of voter registration information among 28 states, including North Carolina, comparing some 101 million records.
The result of that analysis found 765 exact matches of name, date of birth and the last four digits of Social Security numbers for voters who may have cast a ballot in North Carolina and another state in the 2012 general election. The report found an additional 35,750 potential matches of name and date of birth – but not Social Security number – of people who possibly voted in North Carolina and one other state in 2012.
According to Strach, a separate audit of North Carolina voter rolls found some 80 records where a voter died prior to the date of an election but was recorded as having voted. Strach said at least 30 of those instances were likely due to a voter lawfully casting a ballot early and passing away before Election Day. She said the board was in the process of examining the remaining 50 cases.
“My son watches that ‘Walking Dead’ program, it absolutely infuriates me,” Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican, said, referring to the hit zombie TV show. “But I guess we have the ‘voting dead’ now.”
“We don’t think the dead are voting,” Strach responded. “We are going to see if people did in fact vote for these individuals, or if there is another reason. And I do want to stress that the reason could be precinct error. A lot goes on in a precinct and someone could attribute someone to the wrong person.”
Several Republican lawmakers were quick to point to the preliminary report as proof of voter fraud and as justification for passage of last year’s voter ID and elections overhaul law, although, as Rucho conceded, it is unclear how a photo ID requirement would have prevented voters from being registered and casting a ballot in more than one state.
“I think the big bombshell today is the fact that you have documented what appears to be voter fraud that has occurred,” said Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican from Cleveland County.
However, Strach cautioned against rushing to conclusions before her department’s investigations were complete.
“Could it be voter fraud? Sure, it could be voter fraud. Could it be error on the part of precinct officials choosing the wrong person? It could be,” Strach said. “We are looking at each individual case to determine what in fact it is.”
Strach added that “if we have evidence that in fact a person did vote for someone else, then that is a criminal violation, and we will absolutely refer that (to the district attorney). But we have to make sure that’s what happened, and that it wasn’t an error on someone’s part.”
Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant of Nash County said her Republican colleagues were too hasty in using the report’s findings as proof of voter fraud and as justifying a voter ID requirement, which she said was a “solution in search of a problem.”
“I feel like you all are not listening to the part of Ms. Strach’s response which has been clearly that part of the problem is a technology problem, that an improvement in technology would help, so that people who are not qualified voters would not be on the rolls,” Bryant said.
Bryant said her concern with the identification requirement was related to “people who are living in our state and entitled to vote and will be hindered by this law.”
Board of elections staff also briefed lawmakers on a proposal to normalize poll books throughout the state using digital technology that would allow for electronic signatures and photos of voters by working with the DMV database and using cameras on poll worker laptops.
Marc Burris, the elections board’s information systems director, said 38 counties currently use the state’s electronic poll-book software, with nine using third-party products and 53 still using paper. However, Burris noted several challenges faced when trying to adopt the electronic poll-book system statewide, including establishing Internet connectivity for all 2,700 polling places throughout the state, many in far-flung rural locations.
All 100 counties adopting the electronic poll-book system would allow for increased efficiency and integrity in maintaining voter rolls, according to Burris.
Also at Wednesday’s committee meeting was N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Kelly Thomas, who reported that DMV locations have issued 276 free photo IDs since the start of January.
While voters will not be required to show a photo ID until 2016, beginning this year they can receive one at no charge if they do not already have an acceptable identification, such as a drivers license or passport.
Thomas also said his division would soon launch a “DMV in a suitcase,” which would allow staff to set up temporary stations in shopping malls and other locations to better reach voters in need of a photo ID.
Full audio of Wednesday’s Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee can be heard with the player below, courtesy of VoterRadio.com.