RALEIGH (AP) — Data suggesting potential voter fraud in North Carolina’s 2012 elections still don’t justify wide-ranging and restrictive changes approved by Republicans last year that are now the focus of court challenges, voting rights advocates said Thursday.
This week the State Board of Elections presented legislators with information showing 765 voters with matching identifying records voted in both North Carolina and another state for the last general election in November 2012. Board officials are now investigating whether the matches — based on first and last names, birthdates and partial Social Security numbers crosschecked with voter information in 27 other states — represent clerical errors, unintentional mistakes or crimes that local prosecutors should pursue.
Republican legislative leaders said Wednesday the matches prove the need for the 2013 law that made sweeping changes to voting and election laws. The most significant change requires registered voters to show photo identification before voting in person starting in 2016.
Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said the photo ID demand wouldn’t make a difference in preventing two-state voting.
“The voter ID wouldn’t stop any single one of those voters from double-voting,” said Earls, the lead attorney in a state lawsuit filed by interest groups and several voters challenging the ID requirement.
Speaking at a Legislative Building news conference, Earls argued that the law actually may encourage fraud by making it easier to vote by mail through absentee ballots. The law doesn’t require someone who wants to vote by mail to offer a photo ID, but rather the person must provide other identifying documents or numbers.
Double-voting could occur when a person living in one state votes at a precinct on Election Day while having already voted in another state by mail using an old address.
Earls and members of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus said at the news conference they’re worried over how some in Congress are proposing to amend the federal Voting Rights Act in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June striking down part of the law.
The court essential threw out a portion requiring some North Carolina counties and other states to get approval by federal attorneys or judges before changing election laws and practices, saying the formula upon which the requirements were based was outdated. The updated proposal uses a formula that would omit North Carolina and a handful of other Southern states.
Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland and the caucus chairman, signed an open letter to members of Congress urging them to continue to subject North Carolina to “pre-clear” statewide elections laws — like the voter ID mandate — with Washington before they can be implemented. Pierce said he and other caucus members planned next week to travel to Capitol Hill and meet with members of Congress on the issue.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said without preclearance groups like his carry the burden of suing to block discriminatory laws. The NAACP, League of Women Voters and the U.S. government also are suing to stop sections of the 2013 elections overhaul law like photo ID and others that reduce the number of early voting days and end same-day registration during the period.
The state Republican Party said the voting data released Wednesday to an oversight committee affirmed that fraud exists and criticized Barber and Democratic politicians for downplaying it in the past.