‘Bogus-Address’ Voters Must Be Stopped

[Note: This story was published in the NC Free Press July 10, 2013]

The Voter Integrity Project of NC has found lots of breathtaking loopholes in North Carolina’s election laws; but very few are as loopy as policies that enable people we call “bogus-addresses” (or BA) voters.

They do this by voting from an address that is NOT their true “domicile.” They could be using post office boxes, former residences, or even vacation homes. Some do it by accident (like the Warren Wilson College students); but some do it illegally (like the five Florida-NC voters we caught casting two ballots for the November 2012 election). In either case, the good news is that BA voting is a problem that’s relatively easy to solve.

One egregious abuse of the BA voter rule centers around a previously unknown= jurisdiction in Central NC called Handy Sanitary District, whose main attraction, Badin Lake, is peppered with hundreds of vacation and retirement homes. The problem was that more than 150 of their voter registrations listed addresses outside Handy’s boundaries, but 97 of them somehow voted in the District’s race.

The only reason it ever came to light was the matter of a $20 million sewer line, intended to service the lake residents. It became the subject of a lawsuit that a reform-minded Board member named Arlin Sechrist, helped push . . . but he was up for reelection.

It’s all currently under investigation by the EPA, but in 2010, dark forces tried stopping the lawsuit by defeating Arlin . . . and they succeeded by 63 votes. Not wasting a moment, the new board tried to drop the lawsuit the very next day; but that effort turned into a quagmire when Mr. Sechrist started hearing that “a lot” of people around Badin Shores may have voted illegally in the race.

After working with Montgomery County election officials, he learned that 97 residents had voted by using bogus addresses inside the Handy District, rather than from their physical addresses that were outside the district.

They could all vote for bigger races but their votes should not have counted for the Handy Sanitation District contest.

After Mr. Sechrist filed an official protest, the State Board of Elections agreed to a special election with the lake-area voters assigned to their correct district. Mr. Sechrist easily won this time. If that were the end of the story, all would be well and good; but the State Board of Elections stuck the Handy Sanitary District with the $10,000 cost for the special election!

Now, we have found an awful lot of County Election Board employees all across the state who work hard to comply with the complex and loophole-laden book or words known as the NC Election Laws; but in “Jay’s World,” the $10,000 cost should have been borne by election employees paid to manage the voter rolls. Instead, they fined the Handy Sanitation District for having the gall to expect a fair election.

But that’s a problem and we don’t talk about problems unless we can also\ offer solutions too.

So, the best fix we see is to change the law. It should be an easy remedy to allow the removal of any voters’ registrations that use a main address that is not their physical residence. The burden of proof for the challenged voter is to prove that the address is their residence. We’re working on such a provision, but it will take time.

The current (and dismally ineffective) solution involves voter registration cards returned to the BoE as undeliverable mail. This supposedly triggers a removal process that can take up to eight years, thanks to the disastrous 1993 National Voter Registration Act (or “Motor Voter” law) signed by President Clinton.

The good news is that we (at VIP-NC) have found a few loopholes of our own! And this one forces your County Election Board to vote on the removal of each Bogus-Address Voter in a matter of weeks.

The process depends on local researchers who are familiar with Microsoft Excel and with their neighborhoods and it may even take some shoe leather, but the results are effective.

To learn more about this process and to learn about our September Training Summit, please visit www.VoterIntegrityProject.com.

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