Federal subpoenas of Bladen board will be fought

By: Alan Wooten - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — Steps will be taken to quash a recent grand jury subpoena to the Bladen County Board of Elections and the boards for 43 other counties.

The Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement met Friday in Raleigh, saying it unanimously authorized the state Attorney General’s Office to move forward. Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the subpoenas to counties from Robeson to Granville and all those eastward, seeking millions of records of North Carolina voters.

The records were to be handed over by Sept. 25; that has since been moved to after the November election.

“The subpoena we’ve received was and remains overly broad, unreasonable, vague, and clearly impacts significant interest of our voters,” said Joshua Malcolm. He’s the board vice chairman.

The state board, in a statement, said it instructed county boards not to destroy election documents that may be subject to the federal subpoenas and reminded county elections officials that it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for elections officials to knowingly disclose voted ballots without a court order. State law protects the right of voters to a secret ballot, the board said.

Ballots, poll books and voter authorization forms are being sought over the past five years from county election boards. That’s estimated to be about 20 million documents.

Records are being sought that date back to 2010 and include voter registration applications, absentee ballot request forms and provisional balloting forms from all 100 of the state’s counties. The AP said a state board postelection audit for the November 2016 election counted 41 people who were not U.S. citizens who acknowledged voting. The review said all were in the country legally. There were 4.8 million votes cast.

The subpoenas were issued by the office of Bobby Higdon, the U.S. attorney in Raleigh. It is unclear specifically why immigration enforcement investigators are working with a grand jury empaneled in Wilmington. Two weeks ago, Higdon announced charges of illegal voting against 19 non-U.S. citizens, more than half of which were indicted through a Wilmington grand jury.

Some of the documents are public records and accessible to anyone. Andy Penry, the board chairman, said the data sought included very confidential information about voters.

Penry told The Associated Press, “We have not been given a reason as to why ICE wants that information and candidly I can’t think of any reason for it.”

Calls for the U.S. Justice and Homeland Security departments to investigate the reason for the requests and their legality were made Friday by the state’s three Democratic members of Congress and ranking Democrats on four House committees.

Alan Wooten

Bladen Journal

Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or awooten@bladenjournal.com.

Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or awooten@bladenjournal.com.