DACA dust-up raises troubling questions

Oct 23, 2014 (RALEIGH)–For 18 months, VIP has been pressing the NC State Board of Elections to provide documentation to show how they coordinated with DMV to screen the voter rolls for non-US citizen voters. The SBoE Chief Legal Counsel, Don Wright, simply answered, “We have assurance of cooperation from DMV on this issue.”Not-listening (2)

Throwing a BS flag, VIP Research Director, (and Pit Bull in Residence) John Pizzo, partly replied, “if there are extant written or electronic communications between the SBE and DMV illustrating the ‘cooperation’ you mention, please attach them to your reply. . . .”

But Mr. Wright, ever the career state employee, showed how he has managed to navigate his long and distinguished service without getting booted from the cutthroat electoral bureaucracy. He did this with an April 2, 2013 lecture to John, starting with a stern obfuscation: “We have no reason not to believe that the DMV will work with this agency on the DACA issue . . . .” (“No reason not to believe. . . ” What an instant classic!)

Wright lecture

Please click this image to see the entire email thread.

The hero in this, State Rep. George Cleveland (with help from James Johnson of NC Fire), slightly lifted the veil of secrecy between DMV and SBoE . While it wasn’t more than a peek, the email finally gave us plausible insight on why Mr. Wright had studiously avoided answering our public information request.

To be clear, we asked him to provide the types of internal communications that would have improved public trust in the electoral process (which is our mission). Such information would have demonstrated how diligently the SBoE (still under the control of Gary Bartlett) was managing the DMV records that are critically important to election integrity. Instead, we received an all-too-familiar nonverbal gesture that could roughly be translated as, “so sue me!”

Enter the New Sheriff

Two  months later, the new SBoE, Director, Kim Strach, was sworn in and we immediately attempted to learn if she was more interested  in election integrity than was Mr. Bartlett. So, the first time we met her, we recommended a specific line of research that would require inter-agency data sharing in order to gauge the size of the non-citizen voting problem and maybe even clean up the mess that we knew existed. You’ll have to buy the book to see how we knew; but at the time, she nodded and listened intently to John Pizzo, Dr. Mark Merry and me as we practically begged her to pay careful attention to any DMV data sources.

With so much on her plate, we didn’t want to pester her with much direct follow-up; but we never really knew how seriously she took our advice. That is, until last week, when she advised Rep. Cleveland on the scope of the problem and he forwarded her email to the entire Legislature. No doubt, much gnashing of teeth ensued, so here’s a snip from her explosive email:

Strach-Clev (snip)

Click image to see the more detailed email thread.

[Note: If any election officials, anywhere in America, are even slightly interested in keeping non-US citizens from voting, they should follow Ms. Strach’s lead (or perhaps contact us for a consult). On the dark side, any officials wanting to hide non-citizen voters from public notice should follow Mr. Wright’s disappointing example. That said, we don’t fully blame Mr. Wright for simply doing his job. After all, his boss (Gary Bartlett) was a pioneer in implementing such fraud-friendly election laws as Same-Day Registration, pre-registration of 16-year-old high school students and a highly dubious on-line registration scheme that seemed designed to circumvent known Legislative disapproval. Granted, Mr. Wright could have been another brave whistle blower, but the problem belongs to Mr. Bartlett. As proof, we saw a new SBoE Director (Ms. Strach) and the DMV-DACA problem finally got addressed!]

So, after Rep Cleveland’s email release, we saw news stories trumpeting 10,000 Deferred Action Childhood Applicants (DACA) for driver’s licenses in NC who were also registered to vote. Some stories were more accurate than others and “email is still flying back and forth between the Legislature and the SBoE,” according to a highly placed source.

Now for Some Serious Questions

As the smoke begins to clear, it’s time to for Governor McCrory’s children to show us how nicely they can all play together. For starters, Director Strach and DOT Secretary, Tony Tata should oversee the drafting of some honest answers to these questions:

1-Since the public really does need to believe our elections are open and honest, what will the two sibling agencies do to insert more transparency into the entire voter list maintenance process?

2-If the SBoE and DMV data sharing program really was operating since early 2013, how did more than 10,000 questionable registrations suddenly appear? Was that just a monthly snapshot? Or did it cover all names since the program’s inception?

3-Lest we forget Mr. Pizzo’s original request, NOW can we finally see the emails and guidance documents that prove the existence of an honest data sharing plan between the DMV and the SBoE? If not, please explain why not?

4-May we also have a month-by-month numerical breakdown of the non-citizen voters discovered in the process that Mr. Wright assured us was being conducted since early 2013?

5-Regarding any non-citizen voters that eventually will be confirmed by SBoE and DMV, how in the world were they registered in the first place! Exactly who registered them? For example, how many were registered at DMV? How many at Social Services? How many were registered by some partisan non-governmental organizations involved in registering voters? Examples of this detailed analysis should include political parties, (the former criminal enterprise known as) ACORN, Democracy NC, NAACP, ACLU, Sierra Club, churches, etc. And by the way, this should be detailed and not blurred together to hide the culprits. The Legislature needs to learn where the breakdown occurred before they will ever be able to fix the root cause.

6-If anybody at DMV registered just one non-US citizen (under the fraud-friendly provisions of the 1993 Motor Voter law) what disciplinary actions will be taken against that employee and what safeguards will be implemented to a) make sure it never happens again; and b) ensure the public can verify every step of the audit process?

7-A question (similar to #6) for the SBoE would involve any non-governmental organizations caught registering non-US citizens to vote. What disciplinary actions (and preventative measures) can the public expect to see as we constantly bump into activists who are paid by some sketchy NGO to fatten the voter rolls?

8-And he may have thought we gave him a pass, but here’s the same question for the Guv: What happens if another state agency is the culprit? What if social service workers caused this train wreck? For that matter, what if school teachers made their non-US citizen students sign up along with the other 16-year-old registrants that were previously allowed under NC law?

9-And finally this rain maker: It appears the DMV obscured the original DACA data by diluting it with “Legal Presence” (LP) license holders. While both groups are not US citizens, there is a vast difference between them: By definition, DACA drivers are not even trying to gain any sort of US citizenship, and LP license holders are immigrants who obeyed US and NC law. In fact, many LP drivers eventually become proud US citizens. So the question to DMV is simply this: How hard would it be for your data wizards to tell the SBoE which non-citizens are driving with a DACA license and which ones are driving with an LP?

Be careful how you answer that last question. Go the wrong way and we may have to sic Mr. Pizzo on you guys, so just fix it. Okay?!


[Note to readers: If you value our work, please consider chipping in a few bucks by clicking here. We’d like to continue.]


These links were referenced in the story:

Click here to see BOE-DACA RFI

Click here to read entire Strach confirmation

Click here to see what the NC DMV requires of DACA applicants (and what the term stands for!)

Click here to see details of Gary Bartlett’s on-line registration scheme.

Click here to access James Johnson’s immigration reform organization, NC Fire.


Bonus room: Click below to see examples of the media response to this story:

Silence Dogood blog site.

Winston-Salem Journal story.

National story from Watchdog.Org













Before we declare this case closed, there are still a few unanswered questions.

For starters, with the DACA program in full swing for more than a year, what is so complicated with the DMV that they cannot provide a regularly updated list of DACA license holders to the Board of Elections? To be clear, DACA applicants are openly admitting they are not US citizens; so it should be a simple matter to crosscheck them against the voter rolls. So, how hard could it be for the BOE to check the DACA licensees against the voter rolls?

Starting in March of 2013, our own John Pizzo began pinging the NC State Board of Elections on the subject, but Don Wright’s answers have often frustrated John.

to screen DACA license holders who show up on the DMV list? Wait, . . there is a list that DMV provides, isn’t there? Well, we can at least report that Don Wright says there is a process