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Selective Enforcement. . . or Unequal Protection?

Nov 24, 2018

Exactly How Election Officials Play Favorites

We begin with two County Commissioner races we’ve investigated in our past.

First, in 2012, Democrat County Commission candidate, Ellen Frost, lost her Buncombe election to Christine Merrill by 82 votes. Merrill’s win created the final Republican majority Buncombe County has had to date.

But Frost’s side found an angle to claw back a win. It took some artful dodging by County Board of Elections (CBE) Director, Trina Parker and the details are linked here. In the end, Parker’s staff managed to persuade 100 students to come back to the polls and cast a do-over ballot.

The happy ending for the Democrats was that Frost ultimately won by 18 votes and the Democrats retained control of the County Commission!  During her second term, Frost resigned as part of a felony plea agreement, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

The happy ending for Parker was that Bell rewarded her partisan collusion with a gig in Raleigh at State Board of Elections HQ.

Bottom Line: When Democrats need the help from election officials, they get it.

Second, in the 2020 Bladen County Commissioner elections, Democrat Michael Cogdell beat Republican, David Gooden, by 11 votes. During early voting, former Board Chairman, Bobby Ludlum, filed an incident report alleging that Cogdell was illegally assisting voters inside an early voting location.

NCGS §163-226.3 says it’s a felony for candidates to assist voters, but election officials refused to stop him until Ludlum filed the complaint.

Privately, someone working at that polling site had seen Cogdell repeatedly “assisting” non-family voters during the prior 15 days, but she was afraid to come forward.

Would election officials have let the Republican off with just a warning if he had violated NCGS §163-226.3 and then won by 11 votes?

Instead, a local Republican Party official heard complaints and called Ludlum, who intervened with his statement.

That was when a very scared employee whispered to him that Cogdell had been “assisting” lots of voters during the prior 15 days of early voting.

But the employee only agreed to give a statement if everybody else working inside the polls would also be required to tell what they saw.

So, despite Ludlum’s written incident report, the CBE Director let the Democrat off with a warning and failed to collect any evidence to see how widespread his illegal behavior might have been.

Bottom Line: Had they conducted a real investigation, Cogdell may have been removed from office under a juicy, but obscure portion of NC’s civil law statutes, called quo warranto.

In certain circumstances under this provision, even someone sworn into office can be replaced if the losing candidate proves, in a timely manner, that the winner cheated.

Incumbents don’t like this law very much, but we’re told that it goes all the way back to British common law.

Of course, to gain such proof, the losing candidate would need to assistance from election officials. The fact that such help only comes when the loser is a Democrat, means we have a problem.

The Rule and Not the Exception

We also saw this same sort of partisan bias in a 2018 Guilford County (Greensboro area) election.

In that case, the Director of Elections conducted a thorough investigation, but later told our attorney he just interviewed a few people and didn’t create any written records.

Guilford County Elections Director, Charlie Collicut

The perpetrator was a Democrat school official who was ejected from the early voting site after bullying one of his special needs students to tears.

She had requested a ballot in that primary that was not to the school official’s liking, so he tried to override her request and make her request a different ballot.

It was our view that the school employee had violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act in front of several polling site employees, who eventually did the right thing.

But the perp was a Democrat, so the Elections Director Charlie Collicut refused to cooperate with our investigation and told our attorney that he had no evidence responsive to our public records request.

Given Collicut’s creative non-enforcement of federal law, we see a bright future for him under Karen “Bartlett” Bell’s leadership.

The pattern is clear. We saw it in the 2018 kangaroo court that publicly indicted Bladen County campaign operative McCrae Dowless. We saw it when Guilford’s very serious allegations were swept under the rug. We saw it when Michael Cogdell was allowed unrestricted access to the early voting site. We saw it when Buncombe County election officials bent over backwards to help the Democrat claw back a close loss.

In all both cases, election investigators only do their job if it can benefit the Democrat Party.

Finally, Some Good News

As bad as that all sounds, the good news is that we now know about it and so do you.

And despite their wishes, election officials know we know.

The challenge for lawmakers is that this can all be easily fixed with that nifty disinfectant known as sunshine!

Firing election employees is not the goal. Instead, we need enough transparency in the electoral process that both sides support the outcome.

Senate Bill 724 is a great place to start and we’ve addressed our recommended integrity provisions in an earlier post.

Bottom Line: We get the laws we deserve. If decent people don’t petition lawmakers for transparency in election laws, then we’ve lost the Republic.

Giddy up!

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