NC officials say 1,425 voters are in question

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Board of Elections said Friday that 1,425 names on the voter rolls of North Carolina belong to people who likely do not meet one basic requirement to cast a ballot: U.S. citizenship, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Statewide, 262 have voted in past elections, officials said.

Also Friday, the SBOE received an emailed letter from a coalition of civil-rights groups: Project Vote, Demos, Fair Elections Legal Network, American Civil Liberties Union, NALEO Education Fund, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Action NC.

Citing the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the group expressed “deep concern about the way in which the State Board of Elections is identifying and potentially removing voters who it alleges are noncitizens,” according to the letter, obtained by the Winston-Salem Journal in a public records request.

Continuing, the group said in the letter: “The NVRA prohibits North Carolina from conducting any program ‘the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters’ during the ninety-day period preceding an election.”

The list of 1,425 names is only as accurate as the databases against which they were checked, according to the group, citing several ways in which the main federal database on naturalized citizens has produced errors in the past.

Josh Lawson, an SBOE spokesman, said that the SBOE cannot just pull a name off the voter rolls. There has to be due process, he said, referring to a list of state statutes as guidance for local elections officials to challenge ballots that may be cast by those whom the SBOE has flagged.

“We are continuing to analyze the list. Challenging someone is an extraordinary step, so we want to be as confident as possible,” Lawson said.

Earlier this week, Lawson said that the state elections board would send letters seeking proof of citizenship to all the people who have been flagged. At the end of the week, he said that letters will not be sent to all the individuals.

Rather, challenges would be made if they try to vote, he said. In those instances, letters would be sent to the individual informing him or her of the challenge and the process by which to respond.

Challenges to absentee ballots are made on Election Day – in this case, Nov. 4 – and are heard the day before canvass, he said, referring to one-stop early voting, which is a form of absentee voting. Election Day challenges are heard when the voter shows up to cast a ballot, he said.

By the numbers

Election officials gave a breakdown by county of the 1,425 people they have flagged as possible ineligible voters.

The largest counties had the largest numbers: 73 in Forsyth County; 115 in Guilford County; 252 in Wake County; 313 in Mecklenburg County.

Statewide, 109 are likely in the U.S. under the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, officials said. The 109 tally is lower than the 145 – and then 119 – reported earlier this week by elections officials because of further investigation, officials said.

DACA provides qualified younger immigrants a two-year reprieve from deportation but no direct path to citizenship.

Ken Raymond, the chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections, seemed taken aback by the numbers.

“There are a lot of people at the local and state level that are working hard to ensure the integrity of our voting process and to hear that there are 1,425 illegal registrations on our voter rolls is extremely troubling, especially since so many people are working to keep the voter rolls clean,” Raymond said in an email.

Later, he continued: “Regarding the 73 illegal registrations in Forsyth County, that’s something we’re going to talk about during our next meeting.”

The SBOE arrived at the 1,425 names based on a larger list – the latest one had 10,351 – of people whom the board had been flagged as possible noncitizens.

The state elections board then used an automated system designed this week to go through the list, according to Lawson.

Elections officials used a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database, known as SAVE, to find the 1,425 out of the larger list – or those who do not show up as having citizenship.

Against the SAVE database, the SBOE cross checked names and addresses on state voter rolls as well as in a database provided by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

The DMV database contained names of license holders who were not U.S. citizens when they got a license.

They may have been green-card holders, foreign workers or DACA recipients, for example. While the 1,425 did not show up as citizens in the Homeland Security database, the other 8,926 did, according to the elections board analysis. Those license holders apparently became U.S. citizens since getting a license.

Earlier this month, the state elections board manually cross-checked about 1,600 names, Lawson said, and found that 94 percent are U.S. citizens, which meant that 6 percent were not citizens.

The current ratio of noncitizens is much higher: more than 14 percent, or 1,425 of 10,351.

In North Carolina, the state voter rolls contained the names of 6,617,536 individuals, as of last Saturday.