By Francis De Luca and Susan Myrick
On Friday, October 21, my colleague Susan Myrick and I published a report on how another North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) employee apparently was advising others to violate state election laws. (More about the original incident here.) At 7 p.m. that Friday evening, SBE spokesperson Patrick Gannon contacted us and requested we remove the article as the employee, Veronica Degraffenreid, was acting with the full support of the “leadership team” of the SBE. Also included with the email was a “numbered” memo from Kim Strach, the SBE executive director, which provided guidance on “Processing in-county updates from DMV.”
When asked if the SBE “leadership team” referred to the appointed members of the SBE or the senior leadership of the “administrative staff” of the SBE, Gannon replied by indicating the administrative staff leadership decided this issue, not the appointed board. Just as interesting as the exclusion of the policy makers from a major policy decision is the sequence of the internal actions of the administrative staff:
- Sept 26: Degraffenreid sends an initial email to local boards concerning issue of “incomplete letters” instructing them to stop sending out incomplete notices to voters.
- In the same email, Degraffenreid explains to the 100 local BOEs that it was important to think “long-term,” saying “these changes will be in the best interest of our voters and will have a positive impact on our overall processes.” Degraffenreid ignores any statute requiring signatures to change voter registration information.
- September 27: Degraffenreid sends a follow-up email telling local boards the SBE would be moving incomplete records out of the “incomplete Queue” to the “Review Queue” even though they lacked signatures.
- Civitas is alerted to the change in processing voter registrations and the possibility that the change violates state law requiring signatures on voter registration changes.
- October 21: Civitas publishes Degraffenreid article.
- October 21: SBE posts Numbered Memo dated October 4. However, posting is after three other memos dated after October 4. It is Numbered_Memo_2016-18 in this screen shot from October 25 of the SBE FTP site. (Notes have been added.)
Asked who makes up the “leadership team,” Gannon did not respond. We would guess that the “leadership team” would likely include the executive director, the legal counsel, Degraffenreid (as she was involved in decisions under the previous executive director) , and possibly others.
The practice of administrative staff making internal decisions that ignore election law and not involving the appointed SBE was common under previous SBE Director Gary Bartlett, as Civitas documented on many occasions — especially the notorious online voter registration effort in conjunction with an Obama campaign vendor in 2012.
Two things should happen. The administrative staff should stop making policy decisions absent direction from the appointed SBE, and it is past time for Degraffenreid to pursue another line of work that does not involve something as important as our election process. And there are a few others at the SBE who probably need to join her …