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State elections board investigating possible voter registration misconduct

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 11, 2018

State election officials are reviewing reported misconduct by individuals conducting voter registration drives in Pitt and two other North Carolina counties.

The announcement came a day after Pitt County Elections Director Dave Davis posted a social media warning that individuals were telling registered voters they had to resubmit registration forms to vote this fall. This is incorrect.

The state board received reports from New Hanover and Robeson counties about individuals giving similar misinformation to voters, according to a news release from the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Voters who are already registered do not have to re-register or update their registrations unless they have moved or wish to change their name or party affiliation, said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement.

The state board office also received reports that individuals have approached people at their homes or businesses, falsely identifying themselves as county or state elections workers. The agency also has investigated reports of falsified registration documents delivered to county boards of elections offices in recent months.

“It doesn’t sound like one organized thing,” Davis said. “The questions are, are these people really trying to do registration drives and are bad at it or are they trying to scam people to get personal identification?”

Davis said election officials use a variety of methods to verify the authenticity of voter registration forms submitted by a third party.

The forms give people the option of providing a telephone number and email address. If Davis’ staff has questions, they will contact the person, he said.

Once a new voter is registered, or an individual has updated an existing registration, a voter card is mailed to the voter’s address. If the person at the address does not remember registering they usually call and ask why they got the card.

If a false address is given, it’s returned to the elections office, Davis said. A second card is sent and if it’s returned, the person’s name goes is added to the county’ inactive voter list.

Davis was updating the county’s guideline for conducting voter registration drives before learning about the unusual activity. Since the reports, Davis decided to ask individuals to identify when and where their drives will take place so if his office gets calls he can verify who is conducting them.

He also is assigning a staff person to follow up with individuals who get forms to conduct registration drives so they can account for the forms and offer advice if an organization is having difficulties.

“The state board will investigate all credible allegations of voter registration fraud by individuals or organizations,” Strach said. “When workers involved in voter drives falsify or alter information on registration forms, it can cause problems for innocent voters at the polls.”

It is unlawful in North Carolina to pay voter drive participants on a per-form basis, Strach said. It is a Class I felony to falsify a voter registration form and a Class 2 misdemeanor to retain a copy of a registrant’s confidential information, such as date of birth or driver license number.

The state elections board said voters should check their voter registration status by visiting www.ncsbe.gov and clicking on the “Voter Search” tool.

If a person find they are not registered or need to update their registration information, they can find applications at the state elections board website. They also can visit their local elections office.

If a person says they are a voter registration worker, verify their identities and their organizations before providing any information, Strach said. If an individual refuses to comply, do not provide any information and call the state board office immediately at 919-814-0700 and ask for the investigations division.

A person who wants to register should fill out the form themselves and return it to the local elections office themselves. Strach said people are not required to return the form to the voter drive worker.

Strach said people also should know county and state elections officials do not go door to door. If a person claims to be a state or county elections worker, ask them for identification, take down their name and contact the state board office immediately at 919-814-0700.

Davis said he does not want these incidents to discourage people from registering to vote. He urged people to visit his office, the navy building behind the Pitt County Office Building, 1717 W. Fifth St., or mail a form to Pitt County Board of Elections, P.O. Box 56, Greenville, NC, 27835.

If residents of Pitt County are unsure about their voter registration, they can check at the state elections board website or call 902-3300, Davis said.

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