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VIP’s Legislative Goals for 2017

 

After more than five years of research on election fraud in North Carolina, we recommend the Legislature enact a series of stand-alone bills to help restore public trust in North Carolina’s electoral process with minimal impediment to voters. Below are a “beta version” of the laws we deem prudent to fight vote fraud while maintaining reasonable public access to the ballot box. (In this document, the newly created State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement will be abbreviated “SBE3.” County-level boards will be called “BOE.”)

 

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  1. Get the Facts About Vote Fraud. Establish an Election Integrity Commission (similar in function to the Human Rights commissions and the Civil Rights Commissions); empower it to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s electoral and voting process, including (but not limited to) the following functions:
    1. Review all past criminal referrals from BOE for vote fraud prosecution to learn the facts and to inform the Legislature on the more obvious cases that prosecutors ignored for reasons beyond the case’s merits..
    2. Review all DMV, DHHS and DPS records to identify and investigate non-US citizen suffrage. By matching those government records with the voter rolls, the SBE3 will learn a more accurate number of non-US citizens who are active in North Carolina’s electoral process..
    3. Conduct public hearings across the state, accepting sworn evidence of suspected and actual cases of vote fraud, voter intimidation and observer abuse. Publicize these hearings enough to draw people in who witnessed such acts and who will testify to those acts under oath and to the best of their knowledge.
    4. Forward credible evidence to SBE3 Investigative Division and require SBE3 status tracking and reporting (back to Commission) on results. The current State Board of Elections has been derelict in reporting the numbers and types of criminal referrals they have made since 2013. This requirement needs to be codified, so that future election directors will recognize (and comply with) the requirement.
    5. Annually brief SBE3 and biennially brief NCGA on findings and recommendations. The Commission that studies election fraud for any length of time will learn facts that most elected officials only hear second-hand. Such facts are essential BEFORE the creation of more election laws.
    6. Allow Commissioners to serve as observers but not as paid BOE employees. Commissioners may be able to learn, first-hand, how observers get pushed around by polling officials; but putting Commissioners in paid positions (either as polling officials, County Board members, or as full-time county election employees) would bring into question the credibility of said Commissioners.
  2. Enact Passive Voter ID. Merge DMV facial imagery into electronic and printed polling books and require at least two election officials, not of the same party, to approve each voter’s imagery when registering and/or voting. These should be the color pictures that DMV takes for all forms of ID they issue. The electronic poll books would need to have the color imagery; but printed polling books could be black and white, as long as there is at least one electronic poll book on location that would have the color images. In the printed poll books, the voter’s image should be large enough (and detailed enough) that two polling officials, not of the same party, could agree that it’s the person attempting to vote. Additionally:
    1. Require any disputed or missing imagery to be allowed as provisional ballots and specify that such ballots would only be counted if either of these two conditions were met before the official canvass:
      1.  DMV becomes aware of their mistake and they correct (or updates) their record;
      2. The voter provides further evidence of their name, address and facial characteristics. A photo, taken by the polling official may be included in this provisional ballot packet, if the location is equipped with government-owned equipment (laptop or cell phone) capable of capturing such imagery.
    2. Require BOE to retain copies of any supporting evidence offered to authenticate voter’s eligibility. If no imagery capturing equipment is available at the polling location, allow 48 hours for the BOE to copy and return any documentation used by the voter. In cases of paychecks, polling officials may use personal cell phones as long as the image is shot with two witnesses, not of the same party. All such documentation (including age, citizenship status, residency, lack of felony convictions, and facial imagery) shall be scanned and kept in the voter’s record. Except for DOB and signature, all such imagery shall be publicly available for inspection and copying for off-site analysis. NCGS §163-275(13) already makes it a crime to fabricate such documents, but there is currently no way for an election official to retain the document long enough to determine it authenticity.
    3. Apply this section’s authentication rules to Same-Day Registration, address changes and to mail-in registrations who vote absentee without ever voting in-person.
    4. Assist or create a reimbursement fund for voters needing support documentation. In addition to free ID cards and free birth certificates, the state should also allow volunteers to transport such persons and (when documented) be allowed to receive mileage compensation. Lack of funds should not hamper a voter from obtaining a lawful ID card.
  3. Increase Vote Fraud Prosecution. Prosecution of vote fraud cases have been hampered (and undermined) by the fact that vote fraud is the lowest level of felony in the statutes, even a lower penalty than persons stealing pine straw, venus fly traps and ginseng.  Give District Attorneys greater latitude by increasing penalties. Also help citizens work around reluctant prosecutors by strengthening §163-278.28 for known cases of vote fraud. Specifically:
    1. Upgrade the maximum penalty for all Class I Felonies listed in NCGS §163 to Class G, making “conspiracy” to commit such crimes, a Class H felony; and “solicitation” to commit such crimes, a Class I felony.
    2. Expand plaintiff standing (§163-278.28) from “county” to “state”; allow SBE3 to select Special Prosecutor when the Superior Court orders the appointment thereof.
    3. Hold DA liable for petitioner’s legal expense if Special Prosecutor is appointed.
  4. Prevent (further) DMV Voter Registration Negligence. Reduce DMV staffing; reassign voter registration duties to newly created Election Registrar tenant billets at every DMV office and at DMV headquarters; assign Registrars’ hiring and training responsibilities to SBE3; give Registrars free access to DMV records for voter registration / verification purposes. [Note: while DMV is required, by federal law, to register voters, this agency has proven itself to be woefully incompetent in managing this task. As a result, NC is involved in litigation over their failure to transfer all registration data over to the BOE in time for the elections. They have also been documented to issue “Legal Presence” licenses to non-US citizens and then ask the same person if they want to register to vote. They need to be relieved of this job and it should be handled by trained election employees.]
  5. Enhance Citizen Voter List Maintenance. Require SBE3 to keep certain voter-related information in public view through the SBE3 website. Specifically:
    1. Enhance public website: allow voter search by entire street name and / or by specific house number and street; eliminate first-letter requirement in wildcard searches. The current State BOE has made it more difficult to locate prospective fraudulent voters (in the name of “privacy”) and has actively resisted requests to enable address searches, similar to the function VIP created on a public website. If voters could clearly determine the names of all other voters registered at their address and report when such a person no longer lives at that address, the state would save tens of thousands of dollars, spent sending mail to voters who no longer exist at that address. It would also enable the removal of voters fraudulently registering fictional voters to addresses at which they do not reside, a crime that has been documented as being committed by groups like ACORN and NCPIRG.
    2. Expand the definition of “prima facie evidence,” [§163-85(3)] to include affidavits from a resident, neighbor or property owner who claims such a voter does not reside at the voter’s stated address. Allow a statement from the owner of a property to suffice in allowing the local BOE to remove non-residents from the voter rolls. The usual laws against frivolously challenging a voter still applies.
    3. Retain and make public any evidence used by potential jurors disqualified for duty, per NCGS §9-3, to include the prospective juror’s name, address, age and reason DQ’d. (This is a resurrection of HB 100 from the 2015-2016 legislative session.)
  6. Mandate Interagency Cooperation. Require Clerks of Court to report all felony convictions and submit copies of undeliverable jury summons envelopes to BOE; require BOE to initiate confirmation process for any voters identified herein. Various county agencies get official mail returned to them as undeliverable, and this information could have an impact on the voter rolls. Currently, nobody is required to crosscheck that information with the BOE. This law would address that deficiency. Any such evidence should be treated as a piece of returned mail that was sent by the BOE and it should trigger a “confirmation” (and not a “verification”) mailing from the BOE.
  7. Confirm Domiciliary Abandonment.  Require Register of Deeds to report all death certificates issued and all deed transfers to the BOE; require BOE to initiate voter confirmation process for all deed grantors; create an optional form for voters to use at real estate closings that will inform local BOE of the seller’s future domiciliary intent. (Note: Current, but less efficient, law on felon and deceased voter list maintenance should remain in force, to help identify voters convicted—or who may have died—in another county.) This provision mirrors the above suggested reform, but applies it to another county agency.
  8. Maintain Accurate Voter Rolls. Require all NC colleges that receive state funding of any type (including tuition assistance grants) to assist election officials in voter list maintenance duties by reporting all students’ academic status, residence-hall (or off-campus) address and permanent home address, within the first month after start of each Fall and Spring semester; merge student’s home and campus records; expand law’s ban on non-residential registrations to include, ambiguous apartment addresses, campus post offices and US Post Offices. Colleges and universities are the primary culprit of providing non-residential addresses to election officials, but individual voters are also responsible. it is already against the law to use a non-residential address for voting purposes, but the proscription is toothless. Using a non-residential address should ALSO be a prima facie reason an election board should remove the voter from the rolls. NCGS §163-57(1)a says a person votes from “where he lays his head.”
  9. Enact Active Voter Registration. Just as several states require in email list confirmations, hold all new (and same-day) voter registrations in abeyance until the voter signs and returns a confirmation letter (at no expense to the voter); require BOE to remove any new voter registrations that are not confirmed in this manner and report mismatches to SBE3. Abolish the “verification” process, whereby a voter may throw away a letter from the BOE in order to be deemed “verified” as living at an address. Instead, require all new (or relocated) voters to sign a form and return it, at no cost to the voter, in order for the registration (or relocation) to be valid. Further, require election officials to compare the signed document with the original registration and report any anomalies to the BOE for criminal referral. Registering to vote should at least be as secure as it is to be added to some organization’s email list. Many states already require a “double-click” process, whereby the person wanting to be added to an email list must click a confirmation email, sent after the person requests being added. Registering to vote should also be this secure.
  10. Codify Election Observer Rights.  Allow non-partisan election observers inside polls and list specific rights for observers, to include hearing the name of the voters as they present. We have received too many reports of officially appointed Election Observers being abused in one of two ways:
    1. Despite the fact that the fastest growing party affiliation in North Carolina is the “Unaffiliated” voter, current law only allows Observers inside the polling location if they have been vetted by any political party listed on the statewide ballot. Since elections are for the entire public and not just for the political parties, this law should be changed to allow Unaffiliated voters equal access to monitor elections.
    2. Current law stipulates only two actions an Observer cannot take while inside the polls. They cannot talk to anybody besides the Chief Judge (or Site Supervisor) and they cannot look at personally identifying information. Using these two rules, abusive Chief Judges and Site Supervisors have been documented to force Observers to remain at locations inside the polling place where they could not see or hear the voters as they requested ballots. In 2012 VIP recommended some changes and HB 589 ordered a committee to investigate the abuses. That committee was never formed, nor did it make any recommendations. We strongly urge the NCGA to include the rights of Observers in this year’s legislation.
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