Elections board joins other counties fighting subpoenas

By: Alan Wooten - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — What the state is doing just isn’t good enough.

Bladen County has joined more than 40 other counties in trying to take steps to quash subpoenas for voting documents from federal investigators. This is different than the state’s effort to do the same, which was announced immediately after the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued them to 44 counties from Robeson to Granville and all those eastward.

The subpoenas would net millions of records of North Carolina voters. Originally, the records were to be handed over by Sept. 25; that date has since been moved to 2019, with nothing more specific than that.

Bobby Ludlum, chairman of the Board of Elections, provided an update Monday night in asking county commissioners to approve his board’s expected move Tuesday to join the effort. He explained that in the course of three webinars about the situation, the counties involved had a similar feeling about the state’s response.

“Lukewarm,” he said.

“They asked for virtually every document the county board has produced in the last six-plus years,” Ludlum said. “It would be tens of thousands of documents.”

Commissioners unanimously approved Ludlum’s request for Bladen to join an effort captained by Wake County. With more manpower on its legal team, the other counties can lend support and save on legal fees.

The elections board formally joined the other counties Tuesday.

Ludlum said he and his board are at a loss for what Immigration and Customs Enforcement could be seeking.

“We advised we can’t turn over voted ballots without a court order,” Ludlum said. “They’ve told us to redact the ballots. What good is that? It’s just a piece of paper. We’re at a loss for what they’re looking for. We can only speculate.”

Ludlum estimates there are about 6,000 absentee and one-stop ballots, the only ones that can be traced. The others at 17 precincts do not have tracking numbers.

“Two weeks before this happened, they said Bladen had one illegal voter,” Ludlum said. “We traced it back, but found a different name.”

The voting records sought by ICE could be a signal that the U.S. attorney in Raleigh will be prosecuting more illegal voting by people who are not American citizens. Bobby Higdon’s office said two weeks before the subpoenas were issued that 19 foreign nationals were charged with registering to vote or casting ballots illegally because they were not U.S. citizens. More than half were indicted by a grand jury in Wilmington.

The Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said it unanimously authorized the state Attorney General’s Office to move forward.

The counties are glad it did, but they also want to control action and not rely on the state.

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.

Alan Wooten

Bladen Journal

Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or awooten@bladenjournal.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.

Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or awooten@bladenjournal.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.