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Life Inside the Sausage Factory

Last week’s passage of HB 747 brought an unsatisfying end to the 10-year battle Voter Integrity Project had waged, joined by NC Representative George Cleveland, to enact a law forcing North Carolina’s Clerks of Court to share jury disqualification information with election officials. 

Far from “spiking the football,” I wanted to take a moment to help newcomers to the election integrity movement learn how long it took to get a straightforward piece of election reform enacted into law. I’ll warn you up-front that it was often frustrating, but it proves how persistance eventually pays off . . . sorta.

Here’s the background: In 2012, VIP co-founder John Pizzo and I learned that NC’s courts regularly disqualified jury prospects for four reasons that directly affect the voter rolls: a) felony status; b) death; c) moving out of the county; or d) non-US citizenship. That year, we obtained a treasure trove of court records and filed official challenges against 532 Wake County voters who had proven to (then) Clerk of Courts, Lorrin Freeman, that they were not US citizens. 

We’ve covered this matter extensively in the past (see link here) but the Court system did not appreciate our discovery. Suddenly, all jury disqualification information was off limits. In effect, theydared us to sue them. Realizing we’d never find an attorney stupid enough to sue the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, we sought legislative remedy.

Ask a Patriot

Rep George Cleveland has served ten terms in the NC House after a 25-year career in the US Marines.

Because of his past Oversight Committee work, we approached Representative George Cleveland. He loved the idea and promised to get a certain lobbyist to help him draft the language. Their 2013 version of the bill sailed through the House, but Senate Pro Tem, Phil Berger left it to die in Warren Daniel’s Judiciary Committee. 

In 2015 Cleveland tried again, this time partnering with Michael Speciale. They got it through both the House and the Senate, but a revision in Senate Judiciary II meant it required committee work, and House Speaker Tim Moore killed the bill, through his Rules Committee, chaired by the eventually disgraced lawmaker, David Lewis

In 2017, Cleveland tried again, joined by Larry Pittman. This time, they got it through the House and over to the Senate, but Berger killed it through Tom Apodaca’s Rules Committee. That was when the very annoyed Rep Cleveland cornered Apodaca to ask him why. Cleveland later told me, “he shrugged and said ‘the Clerks don’t like it.’” 

The Smoking Gun

The following year, we discovered a letter that backed up Apodaca’s claim. It came from an organization called the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court and it was signed by their Executive Director, Jamie Lassiter. It skillfully played on the ignorance of both the Clerks of Court and the lawmakers, without even mentioning the real issue: Non-citizen voters.  

Instead, the letter linked here used some time-honored Democrat witchcraft: She conjured up a victim!  

“For example, someone moves in October 2015 and they move back in January 2016 when a jury summons is sent. This is before a primary or general election in 2016. A request for excusal would be appropriate for the January summons and the right to voter would also be valid later that same year.”

Jamie Lassiter (Courtesy of LinkedIn)

Either out of ignorance or malice, Lassiter failed to mention how election officials are required to follow a byzantine removal process that takes a minimum of four years to complete. During that period, any contact with the voter automatically flips to “Active” and the entire removal process is halted. 

So, if Lassiter’s imaginary victim voter had attempted to vote in the 2016 primary, their status would have reverted back to Active and the voter would never even know they had briefly been listed as Inactive. In short, her grand scenario failed to comport with reality in any way whatsoever and NC’s House and Senate leadership’s “team players” use it to justify claiming “the Clerks don’t like it.” 

Lassiter’s secondary excuse for opposing the bill involved the fact that we already have processes in place for removing convicted felons and deceased voters. Thus, killing the bill would “avoid duplication of efforts and reporting.” The flaw here is that neither of the current statutory processes are perfect. 

As a reminder, in 2012, our organization made international headlines by finding nearly 30,000 deceased NC voters that their existing process had somehow missed. Using jury excusals might have prevented our publicly humiliating

Click image for our dead-voter win.

them. There’s no downside to information from other state agencies that could help election officials do a better job with voter list maintenance, but Lassiter was grasping at straws.

Her third excuse involved the song and dance lawmakers always get when they make government “workers” change their duties: “We don’t have the resources!” In this case, she mentioned “software capability,” but over 90% of the state’s 100 counties already have a contract with a data management company called Service Commander

While most lawmakers don’t know about those contracts, we do . . . and so do the Clerks of Courts whom Lassiter represents. How those Clerks could authorize such deceptive lobbying by their Executive Director is a question for another day.

Click image to see who supported Lassiter.

The letter closed with a shiny object, suggesting the Legislature fund a “link between jury computer systems and the county board in each county.” While we could support data sharing between any and all state agencies whose records could impact voter list maintenance, this idea was dead on arrival because of the cost. Lassiter, a paid lobbyist, clearly knew this.   

Filing it all away, as soon as the 2019-2020 session began, we visited Cleveland to see what tactic he would use this time around. He stunned us by announcing he would not sponsor the bill this time. After a cruel pause, he said he would ask a few of his Senate friends to sponsor it. 

“I want Berger to move first.” 

Without Cleveland’s tenacity, I probably would have already done something stupid and gotten permanently barred from the Legislative Complex. So, the old Master Gunnery Sergeant was still inspiring the troops and I was one of them. “Who knows,” I thought, “it might just work!”

Senators Joyce Krawiec, Norman Sanderson, and Jim Burgin all stepped up as “primary sponsors” of what became SB 250

Never Trigger a Marine!

Not realizing Lassiter’s letter was unknown to him, I casually mentioned it to Rep. Cleveland and he exploded. “Jamie Lassiter was the lobbyist who helped me draft that bill,” he said, “and all this time, she was stabbing me in the back.” After stewing a moment, he flashed a wry grin and said, “I think I’ll haul her fanny back in here and see what that young lady has to say for herself.” 

Having quit my community college teaching job, I was able to follow this bill more diligently than before. Presuming Cleveland had adjusted her attitude, I finally bumped into Lassiter and approached with a smile and an open hand. The cold dead-fish handshake was the first clue that something was amiss.  

We were outside of a Senate Committee meeting that was about to take up the bill. The cunning Lassiter had brought in three elected Clerks of Court to do her dirty work. That way, she could stab Cleveland in the back and leave no fingerprints. 

But I had caught her.

“Not my happy face.”

Luckily, one of her hired assassins was Moore County’s Susan Hicks. In 2018, she won a third term, running unopposed in the deep red county. Thanks to Dee Park and Carol Wheeldon, Susan and I were acquaintances. Realizing she could single handedly turn every Republican Senator against the bill, I solicited her opinion. 

“The Clerks don’t want to be in the business of removing voters off the rolls,” she said. 

Somewhat annoyed, I explained, “all this bill will do is provide your information to the election board. They still have to do all of the list maintenance.” This seemed to disarm them for a moment, so I pressed my luck. Negotiating as if I worked for Cleveland, I asked, “Would you support the bill if we made sure that language was more explicit?” 

They all nodded in agreement and just like that, I disarmed all three of the Clerks Lassiter had imported for her bag job. She never spoke to me again. I memorialized the moment with a snapshot of the pouting princess during the committee meeting. 

Wrap-Up

Now might be a good time to remind readers that in 2016, the “Republican” Governor Pat McCrory somehow managed to botch his re-election bid during a red-wave blowout year. The new guv was another Hunt-machine Democrat, Roy Cooper. Making matters worse, two years later, both the NC Senate and House lost their veto-proof margins. 

Jamie Lassiter had stalled the bill for years; but in 2019, Moore and Berger no longer needed her help. Making sure Cooper wouldn’t be fooled by the innocuous title, “Records of Excusals for Jury Duty,” Moore’s minions renamed it, “Remove Foreign Citizens from Voter Rolls.” Surprising nobody, Cooper followed the script and gave Berger and Moore one last chance to conceal themselves while screwing their party’s base.

Finally, in 2023, after regaining a “Republican” veto-proof majority, they were completely out of camouflage and relented to Cleveland’s dogged determination. His language was included in Senate Bill 747. Cooper vetoed it on August 24, but don’t worry. Both chambers will override it.   

We only offer golf claps because Moore and Berger managed to include a poison pill. In order to prevent pesky grassroots groups like ours from finding the true number of non-citizen voters on the rolls, they slapped a shroud of secrecy over the process. For some unknown reason, they simply do not want the public to find out how many non-citizens are registered to vote in North Carolina. 

This sage is not over until one side quits, but I do need to end today’s journal entry with one tiny little footnote. 

Oh, By the Way

Jamie Lassiter recently made unwelcome news when her divorce turned ugly. Her (then) husband, Scott Lassiter filed an alienation of affection lawsuit against the man with whom she was having a three-year affair. It was House Speaker, Tim Moore. 

Jamie Lassiter (L) and Speaker Moore (R) Photo courtesy of Daily Haymaker. Click image for more information.

The reason I even mention it is that during all the hubbub, court records revealed that Jamie Lassiter was a state employee, in a position funded by the Legislature. Since Tim Moore controls the Legislature, Democrat Rep. Terrence Everett filed a criminal complaint with Raleigh District Attorney, publicizing the obvious problem. 

“During the three-year period of Speaker Moore’s admitted affair with Mrs. Lassiter, her annual salary as executive director at the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court (“NCCCSC”) increased by more than 50%, purportedly going from $80,733 to $122,707. Indeed, just two years earlier the annual salary of this same position was less than $64,000. . . . To believe that the Speaker of the House, who just so happens to be having an affair with the executive director, would have no influence in this matter is simply unrealistic and disingenuous on its face.”

The bottom line was that we spent six years fighting with a veto-proof Republican majority Legislature, led by Phil Berger and Tim Moore. The entire time, they killed the effort through Jamie Lassiter, a state-funded lobbyist who happened to be having sex with Tim Moore. 

Why do any of these people still have a job? 

 

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. James Johnson

    Excellent article Jay and I commend you for your (and others) efforts! Now, how do we go about getting the “information block” removed form the language of that bill?

  2. director

    Thanks, James. Without tipping our hand… the answer your question involves how this all plays out. There is a provision included whereby the CBEs do have to make it public when they remove a noncitizen from the voter rolls. Counties that jump all over it and do the right thing should have robust numbers. Those that don’t report any will be open to more scrutiny. Let me leave it there for now.

  3. Vassar Bushmllls

    Well analyzed. Your method of analysis should be spread around. Illustrates how bureaucracies think and react, and there their priorities lie, clearly not with the voters.

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