The DOJ's Zealous Attempt to Purge North Carolina's Voter Registration Rolls

The Department of Justice and Les Merritt, State Auditor - want to purge North Carolina's voter rolls - by 10 Percent. The State Board of Elections disagrees.
The Charlotte Observer broke the story first, then the News and Observer , then Facing South (very comprehensive) and then all over the internet:

The Charlotte Observer provides the unvarnished version, while the rest of the media has slanted the title of the story.

N.C. pressed on voter listings
The Charlotte Observer
Fri, 15 Jun 2007 DAVID INGRAM reporter

State and federal officials are mounting two broad challenges to the way North Carolina maintains its voter rolls, charging widespread irregularities that include votes cast under the names of dead people. The accusations attempt to call into question the accuracy of registration records and election returns from 2004 to the present. So far, though, the officials have not made public any evidence of irregularities, and N.C. election officials argue that the state's maintenance of voter rolls is among the most careful and comprehensive programs in the country. ...

The story begins in earnest on April 18, 2007 with this memo from the Department of Justice to the North Carolina State elections officials. This DOJ memo serves in effect as "license to purge voters" if an election official were so inclined. This memo reads just like a form letter, citing no specific registration numbers and fails to provide the "official" report that it alludes to.

"Section 8 of the NVRA sets forth requirements 'With respect to the administration of voter registration. As part of a nationwide effort to assess compliance with the Section 8 of the NVRA, we conducted an analysis of the state's total voter registration numbers as a percentage of citizen voting age population based on reports following the 2004 general election submitted to the Election Assistance Commission. According to that report, voter registration actually exceeded the total citizen voting age population in 10 percent or more of the jurisdictions within your State.

But the DOJ is wrong.

North Carolina's voter rolls have 10% less voters than are eligible, according to the non partisan group Electionline.

In a report of all 50 states' registration efforts, Electionline states that as of April 2006, that 89.6% of North Carolina's Voting "Eligible" population was registered to vote.

The DOJ then takes yet another inaccurate swipe at the NCSBOE:

"It is contemplated that the effective implementation of a statewide voter registration database pursuant to HAVA would help address that issue and provide an opportunity for State action."

North Carolina has a statewide voter registration database in place, and has done so for several years, and has met all Help America Vote Act requirements. If the Department of Justice truly believes its own claims, they need to do better than this "form letter" or "Dear Elections Chief" The DOJ should provide the actual evidence showing which voters should not be on the rolls.

The second broad challenge is from State Auditor Les Merritt, whose office began a review of the state's voter rolls in January.

And Merritt just last week announced that he is up for re-election...

His staff presented preliminary findings to the State Board of Elections last week. According to the board, Merritt's staff cited 24,821 invalid driver's license numbers in the voter registration database, 380 people who appear to have voted after their dates of death and others who were under age 18 when they voted.

We don't need a purge and here's why:

Gary Bartlett, executive director of the elections board, responded Wednesday with a stinging 10-page letter declaring many of the findings invalid. He accused Merritt's office of misleading the elections board and of rejecting its help.

If you read Mr. Bartlett's response, he provides the DOJ with information on how NC follows state and federal law, that the NC registration database is regularly maintained as per law, and how the DOJ can review the voter registration data as needed.

"(Y)our office appears to have a fundamental misunderstanding about the data that was reviewed or about the federal and State laws governing the voter registration process,"

The fact is, the State Board of Elections IS following the law, and cannot find any legal or administrative reason to remove 10% of North Carolinians from the voter rolls.

Bartlett said the state's regular maintenance of voter rolls resulted in 725,499 names removed during a recent 19-month period. Most had been inactive, moved or died.

Oh, and Auditor Merritt's "findings" maybe aren't so concrete:

Merritt's office declined to provide the Observer with a copy of its findings Thursday, saying it is adjusting them based on Bartlett's objections.

"This is a typical process we do in refining our findings," said Merritt spokesman Chris Mears.

About those mysterious "findings":

" Merritt used the review to persuade lawmakers last week to delay consideration of a bill that would make voting easier."

Auditor Merritt will get to explain about them more this Tuesday:

Now, two lawmakers, including Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Charlotte Democrat, are asking Merritt to appear at a hearing Tuesday to explain his work. Bartlett is also invited.

It is truly ironic and sad that such a memo would come from the Department of Justice Department "Voting Rights" Section, whose job is to protect voters rights.

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Voting Section Home Page

North Carolina's State Board of Elections has admirably served to protect all of North Carolina's voters, from bureaucratic interference from 100s of miles away. The facts show that our state election officials are dedicated to running clean elections and are impartial and non partisan in doing so.

It is your vote that the NC State Board of Elections is protecting.

The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is the state’s only nonpartisan, all volunteer grassroots organization focused on the “machinery” of elections and advocacy for simple checks and balances to protect every vote and voter.

Frontpaged, with edits, by gregflynn


Thanks for Highlighting This

I saw this story in the N&O yesterday - imagine my chagrin.

It's hard enough to get live people to vote in NC and they're worried about dead people?

I don't think so.

Go back to my last entry, 'Last Straw' and look at the word caging.

Are these 10% truly dead people or are they more service members stationed overseas. I'd be curious to know if they have already picked their 10%.

LES! What now? I wrote down the names on the Capital Statues !

The second broad challenge is from State Auditor Les "Lesleee" Merritt, whose office began a review of the state's voter rolls in January.

I wonder if he found out that his name on the ballot is still "Leslie" to fool the voters he was a women the last time.

And Merritt just last week announced that he is up for re-election...

Yep and all fired up to audit the books of Halliburton, Enron, and the State GOP party.....And the electrical bill at the Art Pope Plantation..

update: Tues 1:00 PM Lawmakers to question Merritt

Senator Clodfelter is going to question State Auditor Merritt about his "findings" on Tuesday at 1:00 PM.

Unless there is popular demand, we won't be able to hear the meeting over the internet.

For me, this would be a 2 1/2 hour drive, but I would really like to be at the hearing.


now THAT might be enjoyable.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

Awesome ...

What beautiful timing. I'll be in Raleigh for the Democratic Women of North Carolina's legislative day. Where can I find time and place info about this hearing? You should come to Raleigh, NCVoter!

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

unless it is moved

1 PM
1027 Legislative Building.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"


You mean Last Straw :)

And what about the soldier who casts an absentee ballot and is killed before election day? Is that "election fraud"?

And what about the people who are alive on election day and can't vote because we don't have same-day registration. At least if they show up on election day we know they are alive.

Ruth Easterling (woman who served in NC House

longer than any other woman) cast her absentee ballot and then died right before election day last year. I doubt she intended to commit voter fraud.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Merritt is scum

he and Gonzo are two peas in a pod.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

Long past time for our watchdog

to get watched.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I read about this yesterday and I have to say

that I found this to be quite upsetting to me. Will this Republican administration stop at nothing to suppress the votes of registered Democrats?

The answer, it would seem, is NO. No, they won’t. They want to make changes to our voter rolls so on Election Day, some voters will show up at their polling place to cast their ballot and be turned away. I think I know one good reason why.

So, why are they picking on North Carolina, you ask? North Carolina, nationally, has been predictably voting Red in these elections for quite some time now. But the winds of change are blowing in The Old North State and I believe these winds are rattling the windows at the RNC. The poll numbers for Liddy, Burr, and the-worst-president-ever are dismal here in NC and it is scaring the bejesus out of the Republicans. There is a good chance that in the very near future that on a National basis, North Carolina is going to vote Blue. That would mean that one traditionally southern state will have made the change that is anathema to Republicans. If one state can do it, the domino theory may come into play very soon.

We cannot allow this voter supression to happen on our watch. I have already e-mailed my Congressman, although I haven’t bothered taking the time to put fingers-to-keyboard regarding our so-called Senators, since I expect their response to me will be to use the delete key.

John Edwards to Republicans: I'm in ur base, takin' ur votez!

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

one reason this state is red is the straight ticket exceptions

It appears that minority voters are strongly encouraged to vote "straight ticket" , but in presidential elections many fail to vote for president.

So, the straight ticket "doesn't count for president" results in a high undervote for president.

This is an old rule, but it has hurt us for a long time.

the reason the statute was changed to its current state is Hendon v. NC State Board of Elections, 710 F2d 177 (1983).

Coincidentally, we haven't provided electoral votes to a democrat since Jimmy Carter, whose term ended in 1981.

No Longer the Party of Lincoln

The sooner the (R)s figure that out - the sooner we can get rid of the (-R)s. They are an anathema to any clear thinking human being.

As a friend used to tell me, 'They aren't fit'.

Nifong him

In light of the outpouring of rage in response to Nifong's misconduct in handling a case of three rich white guys, what will be the response to Merritt's apparent attempt to subvert the rights of We the People to vote?

Where's Gerry Cohen when we need him? : )

Gerry, I'm coming to your blog to ask: What remedies are possible for getting rid of the odious Less Merit? I know it's not a "bill drafting" question, but you seem to know just about everything, so that's where I'll start.


there is the following:

§ 123‑5. Causes for impeachment.

Each member of the Council of State, each justice of the General Court of Justice, and each judge of the General Court of Justice shall be liable to impeachment for the commission of any felony, or the commission of any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, or for malfeasance in office, or for willful neglect of duty. (1868‑9, c. 168, s. 16; Code, s. 2937; Rev., s. 4628; C.S., s. 6248; 1973, c. 1420.)

Im not sure that sticking your nose into things not part of your official duties for political purpose falls under that or not. Although, some of his "reports" border on coercion and deception.

There is also this:

§ 138A‑31. Use of public position for private gain.

(a) Except as permitted under G.S. 138A‑38, a covered person or legislative employee shall not knowingly use the covered person's or legislative employee's public position in an official action or legislative action that will result in financial benefit, direct or indirect, to the covered person or legislative employee, a member of the covered person's or legislative employee's extended family, or business with which the covered person or legislative employee is associated. This subsection shall not apply to financial or other benefits derived by a covered person or legislative employee that the covered person or legislative employee would enjoy to an extent no greater than that which other citizens of the State would or could enjoy, or that are so remote, tenuous, insignificant, or speculative that a reasonable person would conclude under the circumstances that the covered person's or legislative employee's ability to protect the public interest and perform the covered person's or legislative employee's official duties would not be compromised.

(b) A covered person shall not mention or permit another person to mention the covered person's public position in nongovernmental advertising that advances the private interest of the covered person or others. The prohibition in this subsection shall not apply to political advertising, news stories, news articles, the inclusion of a covered person's position in a directory or biographical listing, or the charitable solicitation for a nonprofit business entity qualifying under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3). Disclosure of a covered person's position to an existing or prospective customer, supplier, or client is not considered advertising for purposes of this subsection when the disclosure could reasonably be considered material by the customer, supplier, or client.

(c) Notwithstanding G.S. 163‑278.16A, no covered person shall use or permit the use of State funds for any advertisement or public service announcement in a newspaper, on radio, television, magazines, or billboards, that contains that covered person's name, picture, or voice, except in case of State or national emergency and only if the announcement is reasonably necessary to the covered person's official function. This subsection shall not apply to fund‑raising on behalf of and aired on public radio or public television. (2006‑201, s. 1.)

An ethics violation should probably be filed for his whole press release nonsense.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

i'm around

In light of the outpouring of rage in response to Nifong's misconduct in handling a case of three rich white guys, what will be the response to Merritt's apparent attempt to subvert the rights of We the People to vote?

Where's Gerry Cohen when we need him? : )

Gerry, I'm coming to your blog to ask: What remedies are possible for getting rid of the odious Less Merit? I know it's not a "bill drafting" question, but you seem to know just about everything, so that's where I'll start

I'm around!

With the hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Government and Elections Reform, Tuesday 6/19/2007, 1 pm 1027 LB, perhaps there will be a trial in the Court of Public Opinion that day.

I see another commenter has already done some legal research

i really hope

that the question of, "What the heck are you doing?" is asked of Merritt.

I think the room decision is made by the committee chair. You might send an email to Sen Clodfelter.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

What a crock!

Does the State Auditor not have enough of his own work to keep him busy?

I have to agree, it looks like they think NC will be in play in '08, so I guess we can take it as good news, in a way? I cannot believe the hubris, the arrogance of these people - it's not enough, all the scandals we already know about, they have to keep on trying to steal our right to vote against them?

As to removing deceased voters from the rolls, I can only share my personal experience. My husband passed away in December '05, and his name was gone from the voter rolls well before the primary in '06, and I certainly did not notify the BOE myself. To me, that's evidence they are doing their job.

We respond by registering as many Dems as possible

Every skin shade, every ethnicity and we work hard to get good information out on issues and candidates so they are ready when they reach the polling place. We also need to teach unsuspecting voters about typical intimidation tactics. Make sure they know what number to call if someone tries to keep them from voting for any reason.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I agree.

and I think we question the ones that have been purged already. We have to be ready - at the county and state levels - to ask questions and not stop asking until we get satisfactory answers.

who will run for State Auditor?

looks like the Dems need to find a good candidate to put Merritt in his place...and run in '08.

Time to get geared up for Dems to take a clean sweep on all Council of State races.

Who is running for Ag Commish, State Auditor, and State Treasurer?

this ties in so neatly...

...with the most recent monica ("legally blonde") goodling/alberto gonzales revalations.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

This is just an effort

by the GOP to kill same-day registration during the early-voting period. Those poor Republicans are scared of what might happen if everyone showed up to vote, was allowed to vote, and actually had their vote counted. It's a GOP nightmare scenario.

hammer meet nail

Yep.....can't say it any clearer than that.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

That's What is Required

moral turpitude, or for malfeasance in office, or for willful neglect of duty

I love how malfeasance rolls around in my mouth. Such a complete definition, too.

". . . under 18 when they voted."

Sounds bad, doesn't it? Except, of course, that I think it's federal law that 17-year-olds are entitled to vote in a primary if they'll be 18 at the time of the general election. It's at least the law in NC. I wouldn't put it past Merritt to make hay over teenagers exercising their legal rights -- it's in the same genre as accusing your opponent of practicing monogamy with his wife.

Sorry for the double post, but --

has anyone made sure Josh Marshall at TPM has heard about this? It's the sort of thing that he posts about.


i dont think the N&O would be upset if you passed all their articles on.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

NCSBOE 10 page southern style smackdown to Les Merritt

Sorry, the OP had wrong link for Gary Bartlett's 10 page reply to Les Merritt's "findings".The correct link is here and I have also corrected it in the main OP.

State Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett's 10 page response to is devastating to State Auditor Less Merritt's "findings". It lays to waste and ruin Merritt's entire foray into his short lived effort to usurp the responsibilities of our elections officials.

Gary Bartlett employs the style of a true "southern gentleman" while politely and thoroughly reducing Merritt's findings to rubble. Further, if Merritt had attended further meetings with SBOE staff as invited, the ensuing embarrassment to come (for Merritt) could all have been avoided.

Dear Auditor Merritt:

The purpose of this letter is to respond to the findings and recommendations of your office flowing from the “strategic review” your office has attempted to conduct on the registered voter database and the voter history database maintained by the State Board of Elections (“State Board”). Your report states the review was conducted pursuant to N.C. General Statute 147-64.6. It is unclear where a “strategic review” falls under the duties and responsibilities listed in that subsection and which auditing procedures are to be followed in such a review. Nevertheless, your report indicates that the entity under Review may respond.

In all four of your recommendations you essentially recommend that the State Board Investigate irregularities you purport to have identified and develop procedures to assure The voter registration database is accurate. For the reasons specifically set forth below, We question the existence of the irregularities you purport to have identified because they appear to be tainted by either a misunderstanding of elections statutes or a Misunderstanding of the State Board’s data. More important, your recommendations Imply that the State Board is not already vigilant in assuring the accuracy of its data. That is simply not the case.

I further believe your draft report would have been more accurate and complete if your office had accepted our offer to fully brief your staff on the controlling State and federal Elections laws and the data you were trying to review. This is a particular concern at this Time when the national press is reporting serious issues about the politicization by the United States Department of Justice of the voter registration process. We do not want That kind of problem in our State or the public to conclude there is such a problem.

We hope this response will be of assistance to you and to the Governor and the members of the General Assembly, shown as recipients of your report, in evaluating the findings and recommendations in your report. We will be happy to respond to follow-up Questions from your office or any reader of your report. An accurate understanding of Federal and State election laws is critical to assessing current administration of those laws and to policy-makers in setting future policies....

Then to page 10:

...After reading the report of your “strategic review,” it is clear it would have been best for All concerned if your draft recommendations had not been issued until your staff had taken the opportunity to better understand the data it was reviewing and the laws applicable to elections. Finally, in the future I would appreciate the courtesy of notice and an opportunity to attend a meeting at which your recommendations about the conduct of the business of this agency are going to be presented.

Les Merritt is scheduled to explain his "data" this Tuesday at the state legislature:

1 PM
1027 Legislative Building.

(unless lawmakers can be persuaded to move the meeting to a room with a internet microphone).

Directions to the Legislature

Sen Daniel Clodfelter's office - (919) 715-8331
(if you want to call before making the trip, to make sure meeting not changed to
different time or date)

I almost feel embarrassed for Merritt. Predictions on whether this will be a short meeting or a long meeting?

Sick Sense

Maybe Mr Merritt has Sixth Sense:

Cole Sear: I see dead people.
Malcolm Crowe: In your dreams?
[Cole shakes his head no]
Malcolm Crowe: While you're awake?
[Cole nods]
Malcolm Crowe: Dead people like, in graves? In coffins?
Cole Sear: Walking around like regular people. They don't see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're dead.
Malcolm Crowe: How often do you see them?
Cole Sear: All the time. They're everywhere.