DEMOCRACY-NC’S STORIES OF DENIED PROVISIONAL VOTERS FROM MAY 2013 PRIMARY[Note: the non-italicized words (below) are copied from the original Democracy NC report. The italicized comments are from Jay DeLancy, Director of the Voter Integrity Project.]
** Mark Perry of Franklin County went to early vote and was told he was not registered. He’s never voted before but when he applied for a driver’s license, he told the DMV examiner that he wanted to register, using the “motor voter” system in place for over 20 years. However, as is (1) well known in election administration circles, a voter registration done at DMV does not always make it into the election system.
[VIP Critique: If his story is accurate, then DMV failed to perform their job. If any reform-minded Legislators are paying attention. We support a stated need from the NC State Board of Elections that they should have SBOE-trained and funded Registrars stationed at each DMV licensing agency. Their sole responsibility would be the equal administration of state and federal election laws (something about which the average DMV license examiner has dangerously little knowledge.]
(2) Under the old law, Mr. Perry could have used the back-up of same-day registration; he could have registered at the Early Voting site and received a ballot to vote. Instead, he lost his chance to vote in the primary because that protection to help voters has been eliminated.
[Under the old AND the new law [§ 163-55 (a)] “Removal from one precinct to another in this State shall not operate to deprive any person of the right to vote in the precinct from which the person has removed until 30 days after the person’s removal.” If Mr. Perry failed to register before the 30-day cut-off date, then it was his error. If he moved inside that window, the law allows him to vote from his prior jurisdiction. On the other hand, if Perry had no prior interest in voting until April 30, 2014 (as his record suggests), then the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, requiring equal treatment under the law. The fraud-friendly Same-Day Registration (SDR) laws created a loophole to that Constitutional principle by granting special rights to people who failed to follow the law. It also created a situation that resulted in thousands of NC voters using the SDR rules to vote, even though their addresses could never be verified. The 2013-14 General Assembly acted responsibly in removing that disastrous loophole.]
(3) Craig Thomas of Granville County was surprised to hear that he was not registered to vote even though he was before he left to serve with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan for 18 months. He went to an Early Voting site on April 30 and was told there was “no record of registration” for him, even though he returned to the same house in the same precinct after his deployment and he was never notified that his registration was being cancelled.
[This was a system fail, caused by the military member’s actions in the war zone. Unless a voter is officially challenged by another resident of the same county, there is no way an inactive voter would ever be removed after just 18 months of inactivity. So, we contacted the Granville County Director of Elections, Ms. Tonya Burnette, to get the truth. Instead of simply requesting an absentee ballot, Mr. Thomas (a fairly active voter in past elections) was somehow convinced to re-register while serving overseas. He took this unnecessary act using a Federal Post Card Application (FCPA) which involved a new set of guidelines. Under NCGS § 163-258.27, overseas voters are only allowed to vote all elections during that calendar year. After that year, the voter is removed from the rolls; but § 163-258.28 allows such military voters to update their registration and vote, if they return from duty after the registration records are closed (25 days before the election). They can even walk in on Election Day to update their records and their votes count. The only error in this case involves either the member not knowing his obligation to reregister or the breakdown in notifying Mr. Thomas of this requirement. In either case, voted provisionally.]
(3) Under the old law, Mr. Thomas could have used same-day registration to register at the Early Voting site and vote. Instead, he had to use a provisional ballot and it was not counted. He lost his chance to vote in the primary because of changes in the law.
[Our take on the law suggests that his vote could have been counted. Why it was not counted is a question for the three-member Granville Board of Elections.]
** Ashley Gragg of Yancey County works as an assistant judge on Election Day at a polling place that is not her own precinct. (4) Because she was on vacation during Early Voting, she needed to vote on Election Day but you can’t leave your assigned polling place if you serve as a judge for the board of elections. In an effort to have her vote counted, she filled out a provisional ballot at the poll where she was working, but had a feeling it would not count under the new law. She was right. She lost her vote because out-of-precinct voting is no longer allowed on Election Day.
** Gillian McNamara, a high school student in Harnett County, was encouraged by her history teacher to work inside the polls as an elections assistant. She knew that as a 17 year old who would turn 18 in October that she had a right to vote in the primary. (5) But she was unable to leave her station and wound up casting a provisional ballot where she was working. She thought her ballot would count, but it didn’t. It was a hard lesson to learn as a new voter – but she hopes to work at the polls again. .
** Malcolm Cameron is 71 and a life-long resident of Harnett County, in the town named for his family. His wife passed away a few years ago and he now lives by himself with his dog. He is disabled with a bad back and rarely drives. A friend from church took him to vote but took him to the friend’s polling place. (6) He was told he couldn’t vote there except with a provisional ballot. He thought it would count, but it did not because he was voting on Election Day outside of his home precinct.
** Anita Buck is a nurse in Carteret County. (7) She traveled to Cumberland County to help at a hospital there for nine months and updated her driver’s license there. She moved back to her home in Carteret
County, but didn’t realize her voter registration had been changed until she went to vote in the primary.
[This is another case of an apparent unqualified employee at DMV making a mistake that took away someone’s right to vote. DMV employees should not be allowed anywhere near the voter rolls without on-site supervision from a professional BOE-trained Registrar. Under Motor Voter, the DMV employee is supposed to ask the voter if she wants her voter registration updated with her new address, so somebody forgot something here. Either the DMV employee forgot to ask that question, or Ms. Buck (a six-time voter who first registered in 2006) forgot to update her record when she moved back to Cumberland County. This is another case of an individual making a mistake and blaming the law for not providing a fallback remedy.]
She was told her name was no longer on the rolls. Without same-day registration, she was out of luck. She voted with a provisional ballot, which re-registered her but the ballot did not count. “I’ve been voting since I was 18, so I know the duty of it,” she said. “I went and did it; and the good news is, I can vote this November, but (8) I had no clue that it [the new law] affected me.”
[We’re distressed by the incompetence at the DMV and by Ms. Buck’s ignorance of the law; but just as ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking any laws, these two factors should not force the public to eliminate the 30-day residency requirement that has served NC (and 41 other states) in an even-handed way.]
** Jotoya Williams is a freshman at Fayetteville State University and returns home frequently to Laurinburg. She registered last spring as a high school senior in her hometown. (9) Unfortunately, the registration application she filled out during a drive at the school did not reach the Scotland County Board of Elections, so Ms. Williams was not on the rolls. She voted with her parents and sister but her vote did not count.
[Oops! This anecdote accidently supports the Legislature’s decision to repeal the practice of activist public school teachers registering 16-year-old high school students. In fact, this sad story should prompt the State BOE to launch an investigation to determine who else at that school was disenfranchised by an employee’s failure to deliver the students’ registrations to the County BOE. And more importantly, what was the chain of custody on those voter registration cards? Did they contain the students’ social security numbers? What did the public school employee do with those registrations if they didn’t deliver them to the Scotland County BOE? What’s the status of this criminal investigation?]
** Henry Wiggins of Harnett County (10) knew that his voting rights returned to him after he recently finished serving his felony sentence but he didn’t realize he had to register all over again.
[He didn’t “realize”? The more accurate verb here is “remember.” Corrections and Judicial officials are studious about correctly informing Felons of their voting rights; so this is another case that points to individuals making mistakes. Either an officer of North Carolina’s judicial system forgot to do his/her job, or a voter forgot to re-register (as the law requires). In either case the absence of our (former) fraud-friendly Same-Day Registration law is not to blame! ]
He went during Early Voting and under the old law he could have registered right then, but without same-day registration, he was stuck with a provisional ballot that did not count.
[Correction: Mr. Wiggins actually lives in Bertie County]
** Amy Borders, Pender County, a mother and loyal Republican voter, used early voting but wound up casting a provisional ballot (11) because she had not updated her registration after moving from one part of the county to another.
[Just as in case #2, NCGS § 163-55 (a) allows voter access to the ballot box if they move inside the 30-day window before an election. All voters who relocate more than 30 days before an election are required to move their registration to their new residence, without special privileges for people who forget to accomplish this task. While Ms. Borders’ sad story makes for good media manipulation, the absence of SDR voting is not to blame for any voter’s forgetfulness.]
The county board of elections even sent her a notice that the postal service indicated she had a change of address, (12) but the board needed her approval before they could change her registration to the new address. She didn’t bother to send it in, and her provisional ballot was not counted – she lost her vote because she could no longer use same-day registration.
[Ouch! Her plight doesn’t get much sympathy. Ms. Borders’ “approval” simply required her to sign and send a “postage prepaid and preaddressed return card, sent by forwardable mail, on which the registrant may state current address,” as provided, according to § 163-82.14(d)(2). This is yet another case of Democracy NC ignoring a voter’s individual negligence while they rush to blame her not voting on an irrelevant Legislative decision that prevents wholesale election fraud to be committed by unscrupulous people who registered to vote from an address at which they do not reside.]
** Paris Drew has voted in her home in Columbus County, but (13) when she went to UNC Pembroke, her registration mysteriously was terminated. The officials at the polls could not understand why the change happened and gave her a provisional ballot. With same-day registration, she could have begun all over; she is now properly registered but her provisional ballot was denied in the 2014 primary.
[Even after discussions with a highly qualified Robseon County election official named Tina Bledsoe, the truth about this case is still not clear. According Ms. Bledsoe, Paris Drew moved to Scotland County after registering in Robeson on April 28, 2014, but she never voted there. The Robseon County BOE discovered Ms. Drew’s second registration though the “duplicate list” they regularly pull from the SBoE site and they removed her from the Robeson rolls on May 22; but according to SBOE records, Ms. Drew attempted to vote provisionally, on May 28, thirty-one days later, in Scotland County. If Ms. Drew had been an 18- or 19-year-old voter, we would have chalked this up to poor timing by some paid political activist (who was trying to meet a quota by registering voters right before they leave for summer vacation); but NC BOE records suggest Ms. Drew is old enough to know better. Even so, if her Robseon registration can be traced back to campus activism, their work served to disenfranchise Ms. Drew and this is another reason that the general public should not be allowed to register voters. While it’s true the SDR laws would have given Ms. Drew a final fallback option, there are a lot of unanswered questions about this case and such extreme examples rarely justify enacting bad legislation. A law that would have given her the chance to vote also would have allowed any number of people to flood a county at the last minute and fraudulently register and vote before election officials could ever confirm their residency. Killing such an egregious law is not to blame for Ms.Drew’s problem.]
** Henry and Jeraldnette Simmons moved to Granville County in February 2014 from Durham where they were regular voters. (14) They filled out a new registration form but the local board of elections said it was not received so they had to vote provisional ballots in the primary – which were not counted.
[Another case of Democracy NC leaving out the unanswered questions in an attempt to prove their predetermined solution. In this example, where did the Simmons family register to vote? And why did their registration (that included confidential information) somehow NOT get delivered to the election office? Perhaps this is yet another case that undermines another suspicious provision of the National Voter Registration Act (also called “Motor Voter”) that allows untrained people to stand in front of a grocery store or a rock concert and register voters. For quality control purposes, the law formerly allowed only government employees to serve as registrars, but the first law that (then) President Clinton enacted changed everything and groups like Democracy NC applaud such fraud-friendly legislation.]
SO WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE?
The elimination of Same Day Registration effects all voters equally and does not disenfranchise any singular class of voters.
Same Day Registration does not allow enough time for the county boards of election to verify that the person voting is actually eligible to vote – which is why it has been eliminated here and is not permitted in most other states. Same day registration could serve as a last-ditch failsafe for a small number of voters; but given the level of fraudulent voting it has facilitated in every state that ever offered such bad law, the disenfranchisement by vote fraud far outweighs any votes gained by last-minute voters who were not interested in their own civil rights enough to register to vote in a timely (and lawful) manner. Rather than being a solution to disenfranchisement, we submit that Same-Day Registration was the cause. The poster children highlighted by Democracy NC were individuals who made one-time mistakes and they are no reason for North Carolina to rejoin the small number of states that are either too stupid or too corrupt to care about having such an irresponsible law on their books.