North Carolina’s Vulnerability to Vote Fraud
October 16, 2018
This analysis reveals critical vulnerabilities in North Carolina’s voting administration system and explores how those weaknesses could impact election outcomes.
This analysis documents how easy it is to fraudulently vote in North Carolina, a state with few, if any, election safeguards. It does not broach the popular topic of voting machine tampering/hacking either foreign or domestic. What follows is a compilation of notable vote fraud practices, including the one which has the greatest impact on elections around our country—votes cast by noncitizens.
In 2013, North Carolina passed an election law reform package called the “Voter Information and Verification Act” to reduce vote fraud. The key component was a requirement for a photo ID (with some circumstantial exceptions allowed), a reduction in the number of early voting days (from 3 weeks to 2 weeks), and the elimination of “same day registration/vote.”
These sensible changes to the state’s election laws were challenged in federal court by the NAACP and the US Department of Justice. After a lengthy trial at the Federal District Court in Greensboro, North Carolina, the law prevailed as written and was sustained. By provision, the first year that election law reforms were to be fully-implemented was to be 2015, and the law was in effect for the 2016 primary elections.
The argument by the NAACP/DOJ that the votes of African-American citizens would be “suppressed” proved to be unfounded during the March and June primaries, which actually experienced increases in African-American voter turnout.
Despite the uptick in African-American voter participation, the NAACP/DOJ appealed the decision of the U.S. District Court and the case was subsequently heard by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond comprised of one Clinton appointee and two Obama appointees. The American Civil Rights Union provided amicus support to the state.
The 4th Circuit overturned the District Court decision and struck the law in its entirety. It should be noted that many states have adopted prophylactic measures to prevent vote fraud similar to the provisions struck by the 4th Circuit.
By eliminating North Carolina’s voting procedures, the judicial decision left North Carolina without significant election integrity mechanisms. The question that follows is whether North Carolina elections are now vulnerable to vote fraud?
Outside of morality, there is nothing under current North Carolina law to deter vote fraud for those wishing to commit it. The crime is virtually impossible to detect at the time it is committed. North Carolina has a very low rate of prosecution for the crime when it is detected.
This analysis covers the following vulnerabilities in North Carolina’s current election administration system:
- Noncitizen Voting
- Same Day Registration/Vote
- Impersonation Voter Fraud
If a noncitizen presents at a voting precinct and claims to be a U.S. citizen, North Carolina has no mechanism in place to prevent the noncitizen from voting. All a noncitizen has to do in order to vote is to check the block on the voter registration form that says, “I am a U.S. citizen,” and then sign the form.
The state considers the individual’s signature as a personal attestation and North Carolina provides no mechanism for questioning or challenging the noncitizen’s claim of citizenship.
Further, although the noncitizen will be asked to show a document with a local address, such as a driver’s license number or the last four digits of the individual’s SSN, the noncitizen can claim not to have a driver’s license and can simply make up 4 digits (any 4 digits) and these claims are routinely accepted.
How serious is the problem of noncitizen voting? Let’s look at the 2008 presidential race in North Carolina: President Obama took the state’s 15 electoral votes in a close victory of 14,000 votes (out of approx. 4,500,000 cast). This is easily within the “margin of fraud” presented by noncitizen voting, as illustrated in the following table taken from a joint study prepared by the Political Science Departments of the George Mason and Old Dominion Universities. The study, “Do noncitizens vote in U.S. elections?” by J. Richman, G. Chattha and D. Earnest, 2014.
The full report can be accessed HERE.
Importantly, this study found that over 16% of non-citizens are voting in elections depending on the contest and location. Therefore, were one to assume that only 5% of the non-citizens in North Carolina voted in 2008, then one would conclude that John McCain actually won the state over Barack Obama among U.S. citizen voters.
SAME DAY REGISTRATION / VOTING
North Carolina’s same-day registration and voting procedures have no integrity checks. Any person may walk into a precinct and pretend to be somebody else. If at any point in the process the individual is concerned about scrutiny, he or she may terminate the registration process and leave the precinct without further inquiry.
Same day registration/vote opens the door to fraudulent votes because, by the time the Board of Elections mails the registrant’s new voter registration card to the falsified name and address and it is returned as “undeliverable,” the vote was cast and counted and cannot be backed out of the election result.
Moreover, by provision of the National Voting Rights Act of 1993, the false registrant’s name will remain on the voter roll as an “inactive” voter. Data obtained from North Carolina indicate that there are currently over 1 million “inactive” voters appearing in the state’s registered voter rolls. The same individual can re-appear at the next election and vote again by claiming to have moved and provide election officials yet another false address with nothing more than a falsified bank statement or utility bill for validation.
“Inactive” false voter registrations can be used by other people in the future. False utility bills and bank statements are easily forged as identification.
Every polling place in North Carolina has a registration table offering to register new voters. However, there are no integrity checks on dishonest individuals who present themselves using these identified methods.
IMPERSONATION VOTER FRAUD
Impersonation fraud occurs when a person appears at a polling place and gives the name of another person who s/he knows is not going to vote in the election, perhaps because that person has moved from North Carolina or is deceased. Persons intent on committing impersonation fraud can appear at an early voting location and announce the name and address of an individual they know will not be voting. Because there are over 1 million “inactive” voters registered in North Carolina, this type of voter fraud is a true vulnerability for the state.
Because poll workers are not allowed to ask questions or challenge an individual’s identity, North Carolina’s voting laws and procedures provide no mechanism for detecting or preventing this type of vote fraud.
North Carolina’s elections are susceptible to a systematic voter impersonation scheme using the names of “inactive” voters. This could be easily accomplished with multiple people voting multiple times at multiple precincts throughout North Carolina’s 3-week early voting window.
Such a scheme would disenfranchise legitimate voters. If such a voter impersonation scheme were deployed during the 3-week early voting window, the illegitimate early votes would leave the legitimate voters marked as having already voted when they appear at their precinct on Election Day. The legitimate voter would be marked on the pollbook as “Voter Already Voted” or “VAV,” and would be forced to cast a “provisional ballot.”
In every general election in North Carolina, hundreds of people are turned away, walk away, or are forced to cast a second-tier ballot, a “provisional ballot,” after going to the polls and being told, “Sorry, you can’t vote because our records show you already voted.” This is largely a product of a judicially mandated long early voting period combined with a lack of voter identification beyond the mere recitation of a memorized name and address. To illustrate this point, in the last presidential election, nearly 500 individual voters were forced to complete a provisional ballot because they were told, in effect, “Sorry, you already voted.”
North Carolina’s election administration procedures do not provide mechanisms for preventing these illegitimate practices.
The 4th Circuit’s decision striking down North Carolina’s Voter Information and Verification Act had the effect of reinstating both North Carolina’s early voting window to three weeks, and “same-day registration / voting” procedures not available in the vast majority of other states. The decision also denied a photo-ID requirement for voting—an election integrity remedy already available to all four states which touch the borders of North Carolina; i.e., Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina.
North Carolina has not adopted alternative policies or procedures that would address the election integrity vulnerabilities identified above.
Other states have implemented policies and procedures to address such weaknesses. These policies range from requiring voters to register weeks before an election, to voter challenge procedures, to voter identification requirements.
Read the ACRU press release here.