Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the North Carolina Voter Integrity Project (VIP-NC)?
Organized by Jay DeLancy and john Pizzo in 2011, VIP-NC is mainly a grassroots research organization dedicated to ensuring free and fair elections for all lawfully registered voters.
Why does your group advocate photo ID for voting?
There are many types of voter fraud and there is no single remedy that would prevent all fraud; but rigorous requirements for voters to prove their identity before being allowed to cast a vote are long overdue in the United States.
Doesn’t voter ID unfairly target the poor and minorities?
This claim is based on a paternalistic racism that says the poor and minorities are incapable of getting a photo ID card, so we have to accommodate this stereotype by creating fraud-friendly election laws. The fact is that our law requires the state to provide a free ID card if the voter cannot afford it and even pays up to $25 for a certified copy birth certificate if the voter needs that document in order to obtain a state-issued ID card or driver license. According to NC BOE officials, the main category of persons who lack a birth certificate are elderly persons who were born in remote areas via home delivery, under the care of a nurse midwife. The state has issued documentation for many of that type voter, but the final numbers have not been reported.
Doesn’t voter ID disenfranchise the poor and minorities?
No. Lawyers from The Brennan Center once sampled residents of New York City to discover that a large percentage did not have a driver license “readily available” and extrapolated that data to the entire nation. This research was bogus on several accounts. First, NY City is one of the few cities in America that sustains millions of occupants who have never owned a car. In the rest of the nation, one cannot function without privately owned conveyance, so most have licenses. Second, the “readily available” terminology is too vague. One might go home and get their ID card if they needed it to conduct civic duties like voting or visiting their elected Congressman in a federal building. Also, both Georgia and Indiana defended their voter ID laws at the SCOTUS level; and in both cases, the plaintiffs could not produce one single witness who was unable to vote because of the photo ID law. In the end, the court ruled 6 – 3 in favor of states requiring voter ID as a fraud prevention measure and the majority opinion was written by the reliably liberal Justice, John Paul Stevens (from Chicago).
Experts say there is no voter impersonation fraud, which is the type fraud that voter ID would prevent, so why do you insist there is?
The main study cited by vote fraud deniers was authored by Justin Levitt, a Loyola Law School attorney who found only 31 “credible” cases of voter impersonation fraud out of 1 billion ballots cast in America and concluded that this type of fraud simply doesn’t exist. This fallacy in social science research is called “confirming the null hypothesis,” meaning “I didn’t see it, so it doesn’t exist.” It’s tantamount to concluding that nobody was speeding because the cops didn’t write any tickets. This type of fallacy would normally earn a failing grade in grad school, but Levitt is a lawyer and not a social scientist. In a personal phone conversation with the author, he initially agreed that one could not jump to that conclusion and blamed that assumption on faulty interpretation by the reader. We offered him the opportunity to explain this problem for us in a filmed interview, but he declined.
What types of vote fraud has your group found?
The only types of vote fraud we’ve confirmed in North Carolina involved 1) voters casting multiple ballots by using different names; 2) interstate double voting; 3) abuse of mentally incompetent voters; 4) Same Day Registration voters who never resided in the jurisdiction; 5) and self-identified non-citizens who voted. We’re still devising methods to confirm several other types of vote fraud, but we don’t discuss current research projects.
With all of those types of fraud, why don’t you have the prosecutions to prove it?
We have ample evidence that would stand up in court, but in North Carolina (as in most states) lawmakers rate vote fraud as one of the lowest forms of felony in the statutes. For example, it is a “Class I” felony to steal a vote in NC. To be clear, that’s “Class I” (rhymes with “pie”) and it’s one step below Class H, which is the category of crime for stealing a bale of pine needles. That’s right. Our state law directs District Attorneys that stealing pine straw is a more serious crime than stealing elections! Arguing over this reality, it took nearly three years for us to see our first conviction of interstate double voting, based on evidence we provided.
What good is it to prove vote fraud to yourself if you cannot get prosecutions?
We continue to demonstrate the effects of fraud friendly election laws to the public as we urge concerned citizens to pressure their lawmakers into tightening the law’s numerous loopholes. It’s a slow process, but we’ve made a great deal of progress. In fact, the late Representative, Dr. Jim Fulgum once told an audience “North Carolina would not have a voter ID law if it weren’t for the work of the Voter Integrity Project.” (A few weeks after he volunteered that statement, Dr. Fulgum was stricken with a serious illness and passed away. Sadly, we were unable to capture his accolade on film, but Jim Fulgum was one NC lawmaker who truly understood what our group was doing.)
Why does your group say that North Carolina’s voter ID law is “lax”?
Because it enables too many types of voters to vote without producing a centrally controlled photo ID. For example, anybody who claims they didn’t have time to go to DMV and get a current license is allowed to vote with one that’s expired for up to four years. Anybody voting either by absentee ballot or by curbside voting is also not required to present a photo ID. These loopholes were included at the behest of critics, but they have the effect of making our state’s voter ID laws a voluntary rule: You can show your ID if you want to. Otherwise, you can vote without it!
Many of those types of fraud would not be stopped by voter ID, so why push it so hard?
While the lax voter ID laws enacted in North Carolina and throughout the nation do little to “eliminate” vote fraud, the current laws do slow it down, making it more time consuming for a criminal enterprises to steal as many votes in a short time. These current laws have a great effect in preventing the “opportunistic vote thief,” who might try to steal an extra vote from a former neighbor or from a deceased relative, because their names are still on the voter rolls. interstate double voting, “real” voter ID laws would.
Voting is so sacred an act that requiring an ID should be considered an unlawful impediment, shouldn’t it?
We disagree. It takes a valid state-issued ID to conduct commercial acts like renting a car or cashing a check; but it also takes a valid state-issued ID card in order to visit most federal buildings, which is where Congressmen and Senators normally work. So, while exercising our right to vote is important, so is exercising our right to petition lawmakers or buying a gun and nobody questions the wisdom of requiring valid ID for those civic acts.
How is the VIP-NC funded?
We are funded by donations from individuals who are concerned about the integrity and security of our electoral system. In June, 2012, we incorporated under North Carolina laws as a “C” corporation. As such, we are eligible to receive donations but they are not tax-deductible.
Why is an organization like the VIP-NC necessary?
The State Board of Elections is mandated by Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 for states to regularly maintain their voter registration lists. Various county election boards has been remiss in their “list maintenance” function, thereby leaving North Carolina’s voter registration rolls open to fraud. If the government employees are negligent in this simple task, it raises questions about what other core tasks they are failing to accomplish and that is why we are here: If election officials were more proactive in their duties, we wouldn’t need to worry as much about election fraud.
Is VIP-NC affiliated with any other organization?
We are a stand-alone organization, but have members and supporters who are registered as Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters. While we have friends and acquaintances who share our concerns in other states, we are not aware of any sort of “affiliation” program.
What is your affiliation with True the Vote?
We initially were the NC representatives for True the Vote, but they terminated the arrangement in 2012 for unspecified reasons. While we now have no formal affiliation with them, they inspired us during the formative years of America’s election integrity movement.
Why is the VIP-NC classified as a business?
As early as 2011, we had heard first-hand reports from True the Vote founder, Catherine Englebrecht, on how the IRS was harassing them. so we made an early tactical decision and opted not to invest in the legal expenses it would require in order to obtain tax-exempt status. The standard C-Corporation structure enables us to conduct research but we pay taxes on income generated through contributions.
Are you randomly challenging voters to suppress the vote of people not like you?
First, there is nothing random about our process in which researchers identify deceased and otherwise non-eligible voters, such as non-US citizens and people who have abandoned their former residence. When such people remain on North Carolina’s voter rolls, they run the risk of becoming victims of voter identity theft or of perpetrating an illegal vote. In either case, just as fences make good neighbors, clean voter rolls promote honest elections.
Why is it important to remove the names of deceased people from the voter rolls?
Nationwide, there have been numerous cases of dead people being victims of voter identity theft. While this type of voter fraud is rare in North Carolina, it has been found on a massive scale in other states. The way it works is that if the names of deceased individuals are not removed from the voter rolls, someone else can steal their identity and vote in their place. With real voter identification laws being opposed and undermined by political activists at every turn, we have pushed for tighter voter list maintenance to mitigate this particular risk to the electoral process.
It was once reported that you erroneously identified some people as deceased. Can you explain how this happened?
As concerned citizens, we do not have access to the same fidelity of data on voter status as the Board of Elections. Therefore, we performed the best analysis we could, based on reasonable suspicion or belief in the facts as we knew them. After our analysis was complete, we turned our findings over to the Board of Elections for them to make a final determination. Despite much misinformation from the previous NC State Board of Elections and from certain partisan media organizations, we eventually learned that our error rate was below 3 percent. In all cases of error, the name of a deceased person was matched to the wrong voter. This meant that both the living voter and the deceased were retained on the rolls, which is the prudent measure to take in such situations.
News accounts suggest VIP-NC is a racist organization. What can you tell me about your work that will prove that you are not?
We have safeguards in place which eliminate any race, gender or political party affiliation bias in our research. Only two lead researchers in our organization have access to all public data, which is then stripped of any race, gender or party information before it is sent to “citizen auditors” who have reviewed such files, which they either approved or rejected based on objective data. In Social Scientific terms, we use this “single-blind” method in order to eliminate the chances of personal bias when the auditors review the data.
How does VIP-NC respond to claims that you are trying to suppress votes?
We are not trying to rid the rolls of any eligible voters. Rather, as our name suggests, we strive to maintain the integrity of the voter rolls by identifying deceased and ineligible voters, thereby ensuring that all who are legally eligible to vote may do so, and those who are ineligible cannot vote.
What gives you the right to remove voters from the voter roll?
We don’t remove voters from the voter rolls and never have. We provide the Board of Elections with the names of people whom we believe are ineligible to vote because they are deceased or otherwise ineligible. It is up to each county’s Board of Elections to make the final determination and remove ineligible voters from the rolls. This “right” is authorized under Article 8 of North Carolina General Statutes.
How does VIP-NC conduct its research?
We proactively obtain public data from various government sources (including the State Board of Elections) to determine if any patterns of fraud or neglect emerge in the data.
How does VIP-NC assure their information is accurate?
We begin the process with proprietary computer software written to compare variables in two separate data files. In the case of the deceased voters, we received approximately 750,000 records of people whom the NC Department of Public Health certified to be deceased. We then matched their records against a file containing approximately 6,400,000 voter registration records. Our software created a third file of any records that matched with age (within one year), first name, last name, county and street address. That list resulted in approximately 30,000 records that were roughly matched, but there was still room for error. Therefore, unnecessary factors like race, gender and party affiliation were removed from the files and trained volunteers then visually verified each matched voter record for accuracy.
What is VIP-NC’s record of accuracy?
We strive for high-quality research. One batch of data, submitted to Alamance County had a 100% match rate (with 123 voters identified and removed from the rolls), while Wake County’s first batch had 374 out of 386 confirmed and 12 pending, which translates to a minimum of a 97% accuracy rate. Unfortunately, the human verification process for 30,000 suspected cases involves training volunteers from all across the state and some made errors in judgment that made us less than 100 percent accurate. Even so, an audit, conducted two years after the initial report, indicated less than a 3 per cent error rate.
Why were there any errors at all?
Matching the names and addresses was tedious work for approximately two dozen volunteers, and despite their best efforts, there were still some errors. While we are still conducting error analysis, we already recognize that some discrepancies involved matching the names for women. Our volunteers were trained to accept a match if the first and last names were unusual enough and the middle name appeared to be a maiden name. If the first and last names were fairly common, then they should not accept the match. In both cases, the address must match too; but in some cases, rural route addresses on the voter’s file were difficult to match with an official street name on the death record. Many North Carolina cities and towns have renamed Rural Routes in order to facilitate emergency services personnel, which made address matching more difficult in some cases.
You mentioned matching the age to “within one year.” Why didn’t you only accept exact matches of their age?
The Department of Public Health data included the birth dates for the deceased citizens, but the voter rolls only provided the voter’s age. As a result, there was no way to determine an exact match.
Why did WRAL report that you had 42 out of 148 erroneous matches on your report of deceased voters?
Their reporter mistakenly gave the error rate as 42 out of 148, or nearly one-third of our matches. In actuality, we submitted names of 1,062 deceased people, in two batches, to Wake County. One batch was the 386 deceased voters that we officially “challenged.” The other was a courtesy file of 676 deceased voters (presented at an official hearing and clearly noted as NOT being challenges) for a total of 1,062 deceased people on the Wake County voter roll. Of those 1,062 voters, the Wake Board of Elections could not confirm the deaths of 148 voters, so they mailed letters to determine their status. Wake County Board of Elections has not shared its findings with us, but if, as the broadcast implied, only 42 of those 1,062 were found to be still alive, then this is greater than a 96% match rate.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show broadcast repeatedly charged that VIP-NC “challenged” almost 30,000 voters who you believed to be dead. Why did you challenge this many people this close to the election?
When we delivered a list of approximately 30,000 deceased voters to the State Board of Elections on August 31, 2012, we clearly stated that we were not burdening them with the quasi-judicial procedure known as a “challenge.” Our reasoning was that these challenges trigger a process that is both time consuming and burdensome, especially this close to the elections. Ms. Maddow generically used the term “challenge” and her guest during that segment, Ms. Veronica DeGraffenreid of the NC State Board of Elections, should have corrected her; but instead, she repeated the term and left a mistaken impression that we challenged nearly 30,000 voters. We did not.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said you misrepresent yourselves as a non-profit organization on your website, even though you were really a business corporation. Could you explain this?
Long before we received our first donation, we installed a mandatory check box on the donation page that requires donors to acknowledge that their gifts are NOT tax-deductible, so that no one would ever be misled. Unfortunately, the term, “non-profit” was buried in the middle of a paragraph on our “about us” page and had slipped by us until a producer from the Rachel Maddow show called to ask about it. We immediately corrected the page (which Ms. Maddow reported) and we pointed out the mandatory check box on our “Donate” page (which Ms. Maddow did not report), so our intent has been transparent to those in the public who don’t believe everything they see on television.
What’s the big deal? Both sides cheat, so doesn’t it balance out?
Since this crime is so difficult to detect, there is really no way to measure how much vote fraud goes on, nor is there any way to make sure the amount of cheating is balanced; so the better approach is to prevent as much cheating as possible while realizing that people are always going to innovate and find new ways to steal votes (and elections). We have seen what happens in countries like Russia, North Korea, Iran and Venezuela when people just throw up their hands and give up: They get the government they deserve. We should exercise our freedom to monitor elections or else we will lose it (and a whole lot more).
Suppose you scour 30,000 registered voters and find perhaps 10 that showed voter activity after their death. That’s so small a percentage (out of 6 million NC voters) that it proves you guys are just wasting time.
First, this begs the question about how many illegal votes should be tolerated. A recent District Attorney race in Alamance County was won (or lost) by six votes, so how many fraudulent votes would be acceptable? Do we draw the line at five? Or how about seven?
Second, we realize that our access to government data is limited; so if we found one or two fraudulent voters, then there are probably a lot more that slipped past our limited resources.
We cannot just trust “the government” to do this process for us because the adage about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely is still true! VIP-NC is not interested in maintaining the same fraud-friendly system, only under new management. We want true reform of North Carolina’s election laws.