(ORRUM,NC) – A Robeson County man is outraged because a group home registered his mentally challenged sister to vote without his knowledge. The State Board of Elections Counsel, Don Wright, says that is a felony by state law but he says prosecutors don’t pursue such cases.
Tim Farabaugh is a retired pipefitter and a Civil War re-enactor living in Orrum, North Carolina with his sister Ruth Maria Farabaugh, 54. He is her legal guardian. The sister has Down Syndrome and Mr. Farabaugh says she has no capacity to make decisions on her own. He demonstrated that while the sister worked in a coloring book in their kitchen:
Maria Farabaugh was registered as a Democrat in 2006 but her brother didn’t find out about it until 2011. Mr. Farabaugh describes himself as a conservative Democrat. There is still a McCain-Palin sign in their front yard.
Mr. Farabaugh removed his sister from the McDuffie Group Home in Fayetteville and then tried to convince an official at the Cumberland County Board of Elections to remove his sister’s name from the voter rolls. He says the official balked:
He was finally able to remove Maria’s name from the rolls. Farabaugh contacted his legislative representative Rep. G.L. Pridgen (R-Roberson) and Pridgen is helping him with the case. The brother worries there could other similar cases. In fact such an allegation was made in 2011 in the Washington County Sheriff’s race. David Hassell lost to incumbent Sheriff James Ross. Based on testimony from staff at a group home, the Roanoke Development Center, Hassell claimed residents were given unsolicited help to vote. The center was run by the County Democratic Party Chairman.
“Only a voter’s near relative or legal guardian can aid the voter in a care home as to registering and voting,” says Wright. Still Wright says the board receives four to five complaints every year from families saying their relatives are being assisted with voting without the family’s consent.
“I am unaware of any district attorney that has chosen to prosecute such violations,” Wright says. “Many care homes are not aware of this statute.”
In fact, even the state Ombudsman, who is supposed to advocate for patients, wasn’t aware of the law. Sharon Wilder said by email there was no need for a “near relative” to give permission for voter registration.
The fear for some is the group homes could be turned into voting blocs for some candidates, as was alleged in Washington County.
Dwight Neal of Franklin County is a Republican poll observer and says he saw evidence of that at the polls in 2008:
Mr. Farabaugh says he is writing a letter of complaint to Wright and Wright says he in turn will compose a letter of warning to the group home.
Update: Rep. G.L. Pridgen (R-Roberson) forwarded a letter of complaint from Farabaugh to the State Board of Elections counsel Don Wright. Below is the text:
Dear Mr. Wright,
As my assistant discussed with you, I am forwarding a letter shown below which I received today from Mr. Timothy Farabaugh regarding his sister and voter registration. The letter articulates the situation.
This is something dear to my heart as I am the guardian of a family member in a similar situation who resides in a group home. I am very familiar with the process as legal guardian and know that by law the guardian should receive notice and give permission in such incidences, i.e., registering to vote. As a guardian, I receive documents annually from the group home which require my permissions, one item in that annual process is voter registration.
As you can imagine, Mr. Farabaugh is very upset over this situation and the trouble he had getting his sister’s name off of the voting list. Thank you for your assistance on this matter as I am certain the State Board of Elections is interested in investigating this. Please keep me up-to-date on your findings and actions. My office phone number is 919.733.5821 where you can contact me or my Legislative Assistant, Bev Slagle.
Representative G. L. Pridgen
District 46, NC House of Representatives
Room 2223, 16 W. Jones St.
House of Representatives
Raleigh, NC 27601
Wright says the matter will be investigated.