North Carolina State Board of Elections releases audit of 2016 elections

By: By Chrysta Carroll -

RALEIGH — Voter fraud is almost non-existent in North Carolina, according to a report released this week by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

“This agency strongly cautions readers not to refer to each of these cases as ‘voter fraud’,” the report reads, concerning the hundreds of ballots questioned in this year’s election. “As stated earlier, ‘ineligible voters casting ballots’ may be the result of unintentional or intentional conduct. Fraud, in most cases, is an intent crime that requires prosecutors to show that the voter knowingly committed a crime.”

According to the report, even when considering both intentional and unintentional ineligible voting, only approximately .01 percent of ballots cast in the elections were invalid. Of the record-breaking 4.8 million votes cast statewide, 510 records were ineligible. Of those, 441 were ballots cast by felons, 41 were by non-citizens, 26 were ballots cast by people who voted twice, and two were cases of voter impersonation.

With regard to invalid votes, only one county is mentioned by name in the report’s summary — Bladen County. The summary simply states, “Irregularities affecting absentee by-mail voting in Bladen County — the State Board voted unanimously late last year to refer an investigation into suspected criminal activity to federal prosecutors.” The statement alludes to allegations — including a formal complaint to the State Board by McRae Dowless — that the Bladen Improvement Political Action Committee fraudulently cast hundreds of absentee ballots. Throughout the investigation, the PAC has maintained that its members’ actions are legally allowed.

“State Board of Elections investigators are working with the District Attorney’s Office in Bladen County and federal law enforcement officials on an investigation stemming from irregularities in Bladen County in the 2016 general election. The investigation is ongoing,” said State Board of Elections Media Specialist Patrick Gannon.

Missing from the report, and not included in the 510 records, were the number of votes affected by the “irregularities.”

The second time Bladen County appeared on the report was for a single case of a felon casting a vote. Convicted criminals are prohibited from voting during the entirety of their sentence, including probation.

The State Board is taking several steps to discourage ineligible voting by felons in the future, including expressly notifying them that they lose their voting rights upon conviction, increasing data-sharing between election officials to ensure felons removed in one county do not re-register in another, adding checkboxes on voter forms to ensure participants are aware of voter qualifications, and updating elections software to check felon status at the time of registration. The improved software system will roll out statewide this summer.

In addition to breaking down the 510 ineligible records by county and outlining corrective steps, the report categorizes invalid activity by party affiliation.

“Our work indicates that ineligible voters are not isolated to one political party …” the report reads.

At the time of the election, 39.5 percent of the state were registered Democrats, 30.2 percent were Republican, 0.4 percent were Libertarian, and 29.9 percent were unaffiliated. What follows is the breakdown of the 510 ineligible votes by type, along with the percentage of the offense committed by registered voters of each party.

— Double voting (24 voters): Democrat (58.3), Republican (20.8), Unaffiliated (20.8), Libertarian (0)

— Felons (441 voters): Democrat (66.2), Republican (16.6), Unaffiliated (16.3), Libertarian (0.9)

— Non-citizens (41 voters): Democrat (48.8), Republican (26.8), Unaffiliated (24.3), Libertarian (0)

— Voter impersonation (two voters): Democrat (0), Republican (100), Unaffiliated (0), Libertarian (o)

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll