- Mainstream news outlets mislead on early voting
- State elections officials seem to wink at, or even enable, voter fraud
- Democrats for decades altered the system to work for them
Donald Trump’s choice of words about the election system is interesting because people interpret the word “rigged” in different ways. Is he talking about voter fraud, or is he talking about the collusion between the media and establishment politicians and their coalitions – “the system”? Many people agree with the Republican presidential candidate’s use of “rigged” for one or both of these definitions.
The North Carolina story may be a good example of combining these two characterizations of “rigged” – and of how that word may not even be strong enough to describe what’s going on.
First, no story about “rigged” elections is complete without mention of the mainstream media. Most recently, nationally and locally, the media have been reporting Democrat Hillary Clinton is leading in states where early voting is taking place, including North Carolina. They point to political party affiliation in the turnout numbers and come to the conclusion that since more Democrats are voting, then Clinton must be winning.
But this betrays the media’s ignorance about our state.
In North Carolina, Democrats always outnumber Republicans at the polls, because by party registration Democrats make up nearly 40 percent of the electorate, while Republicans make up only 30 percent. Some of that registration edge, however, is more a reflection of history, habit and tradition than contemporary voting tendencies.
By no means is early voting turnout by party an indication of who is winning. In 2012, when Obama lost North Carolina by nearly 100,000 votes and the Republican legislature solidified their super majorities, 2,774,594 people voted early. Of those, 1,317,822 were Democrats, 874,205 were Republicans and 576,273 were unaffiliated. The Democrats’ registration edge failed to translate to victory at the polls.
The mainstream media’s reporting of early voting turnout as a reflection of who is winning the presidential race seems more an attempt to discourage voters who are voting for Republicans or Trump, both of which most mainstream outlets have loudly criticized over the last several years. This should remind us of the time when it was commonplace for organizations (mostly media outlets) to commission exit polls and announce winners even before the polls closed. Exit polling was stopped once it was proven that the polls and the reporting of the polls could affect the outcome of political contests.
Then there is voter fraud.
We’ve heard reports of fraud investigations around the country this year. Here in North Carolina, Civitas helped expose a strange situation in which a State Board of Elections employee, Dr. E. Lee Cooley, was teaching the public and political operatives how to commit voter fraud. It may be an understatement to say that we were alarmed to learn that at least one person in the State Board of Elections, the department that oversees all elections in North Carolina, was telling people that it was okay to commit voter fraud and actually instructing them how to do so by voting other people’s ballots.
“Rigged” may be too light of term when we understand how the SBE staff explained the Cooley story to their board members, effectively sweeping the story under the rug, and how they claimed to take remedial action after their investigation.
On October 13, eight days after Civitas ran the story on Cooley, the SBE met telephonically to discuss several topics, including the Cooley debacle.
In the 17 minutes that SBE members discussed Cooley’s actions, SBE Executive Director Kim Strach’s description to the board members was sketchy, at best. Remember, this meeting happened eight days after the Civitas story about Dr. Cooley was published. Strach insisted that, according to their investigation, Cooley acted alone. Strach stated categorically that no one else in the agency had anything to do with Cooley’s message.
The executive director offered one bit of new information to the five SBE members when she told them that Cooley had sent a list of Democrat candidates along with her presentation to all who attended the meetings where she lectured on the best practices of committing voter fraud. The State Board members offered little by way of input. In fact, the two Democrats on the board never uttered a word during the whole discussion.
We presume Strach only discovered this startling fact on account of a public records request made by Civitas on the same day the Cooley report was published. Unfortunately, we have only received one month of the emails requested. Here is the text of one of the emails from Cooley to NC NAACP President William Barber.
Cooley was subsequently fired for her actions, but what about the repercussions of the false information she was spreading? In the end, Strach told board members that board officials had taken remedial measures, starting with sending emails to attendees of the meeting who had received Cooley’s presentation via email. However, Civitas believes that’s all the SBE will do, if even that. Our skepticism about the situation is fueled by the obvious steps the board should have taken. Local elections boards should have been directed to compare signatures of absentee voters when they meet to approve absentee ballots. After all, Cooley had been telling political activists and the public how to violate state law and vote absentee ballots for relatives and the homeless.
In Pasquotank County, where Cooley was recorded in one of her educational sessions, the local board of elections has agreed to compare and verify signatures on absentee ballots during the approval process. Boards in the other 99 counties should have been directed to follow suit.
Meanwhile, even as the SBE discussed the Cooley situation, another SBE employee sent instructions to all 100 counties to disregard the state law that requires signatures on voter registration forms. Veronica Degraffenreid, the SBE’s election preparation and support manager, ignored the statute that requires a signature as part of the registration process, including changes in voter registration.
NCGS 163-82.6 (b) clearly states: Signature – The form shall be valid only if signed by the applicant.
Worse, now the senior leadership of the administrative staff is backing her up. As a recent Civitas article recounted , SBE leadership has tried desperately to show DeGraffenreid’s action was acceptable, but their explanation raises more questions than it answers.
A History of Party Machinations
In North Carolina the rigging process began many years ago.
North Carolina’s election laws had been written and rewritten by one party, the Democrats, to enable it to control the legislative branch for more than 120 years. Case in point: North Carolina is one of only three states (along with Delaware and Tennessee) that placed the Democratic Party at the top position on every partisan ballot in every election. North Carolina law stated that candidates would appear “in alphabetical order by party and in alphabetical order within the party.”
This practice was never questioned. But one would be hard-pressed to find a credible study that suggests the top of the ballot position does not improve a candidate’s chances of winning.
In 2013, the Republican-led legislature passed voting reforms and the law was changed so that now the nominees of political parties will appear in alphabetical order by party beginning with the party whose nominee for governor received the most votes in the most recent gubernatorial election, and in alphabetical order within the party.
Another example of North Carolina’s common-sense reforms and reversal of a purely partisan application of an election law is the elimination of straight-party voting. This change goes beyond just the repeal of an antiquated law implemented to make voting easier in a one-party state, but it also does away with what even the liberal Brennan Center for Justice called a “ballot flaw.”
While North Carolina was one of just 15 states that included a straight-party option on partisan ballots, it was the only state that did not include the presidential contest in the straight-party selection. North Carolina Democrats dropped the presidential contest from straight-ticket voting in 1967, apparently because they could see North Carolinians were becoming disenchanted with the liberal trend in the national Democratic party. Since then, Republican presidential candidates have carried the state in 10 out of the last 12 presidential elections. This measure did not give the advantage to the Republicans as the Democrats had done for their party in the 1960s, but reduces the chances of any voter missing a vote for the presidential candidate.
Consider another reform recently made in North Carolina that benefits all voters by reversing a rule put in place by a political party to discourage another party from voting. The reform made voting by mail easier, by eliminating the requirement that voters who vote by mail must make their requests for a ballot in their own handwriting. This provision reverses a change made in the 1990s by the Democratic legislature in response to the realization that Republicans were successfully turning their voters out to vote by using the absentee-by mail process. Their legislation put an end to the mailers that Republicans used to help voters receive absentee ballots and to discourage using the absentee-by-mail process altogether – except, apparently, when Democrats can “help” voters fill out their ballots.
If someone wants to steal an election there are many ways. Some of them are: rig the game by changing the rules; voter fraud; media collusion or any combination of these.