By Susan Myrick and Francis De Luca
*Update at bottom of page – State Board of Elections issues press release regarding this Civitas report.
- Cooley misleads public at Pasquotank meeting
- Recording catches her misrepresenting the law
- Did she commit felonies and advise others to do the same?
A State Board of Elections employee recently misrepresented voting laws so badly that following her advice might be a crime – and Civitas has a recording of the whole talk.
On September 28 and 29, 2016 in two separate meetings in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, citizens, elections officials and staff, and party activists attended voter education seminars led by Dr. E. Lee Cooley, a voter outreach specialist from the NC State Board of Elections (SBE). The people came to learn about voting in North Carolina and how to help others to vote. After listening to the audio recording of the September 29 event at the College of the Albemarle, you may agree that the people attending the meeting learned things that, if put into practice, could end with charges of voter fraud.
Speaking on behalf of the state board on Thursday night, her presentation lasted for approximately 70 minutes. By the time Cooley’s talk ended she had communicated to the audience more than nine times that it was legal to vote someone else’s absentee by mail ballot. She was wrong: State law clearly forbids the kind of “help” she said was legal.
That is not all. Unfortunately, she proceeded to tell the audience that, in some circumstances, it is perfectly legal for owners and staff at a healthcare facility to assist patients with their absentee by-mail votes. Again, that’s wrong: State law clearly says they may not.
Dr. Cooley’s Remarks on Tape
Here is the audio file of the entire presentation.
Below is a timeline of the instances where Cooley talked about voting another person’s ballot for him or her (with transcription):
Cooley jumped right in to her presentation with a discussion on the voting rights of former felons. During the next few minutes Cooley moved the discussion to general voter registration, online voter registration (which is not authorized in NC) and then to college students’ residency. Finally, she settled on the voting rights of the homeless.
There are several segments of Cooley’s presentation that can only be characterized as bizarre. Her discussion about the homeless is one of them and it was in this discussion that Cooley first suggested that it was perfectly fine for a person to vote for another person. First, she talked about registering the homeless and finding out where they wanted their verification card to be mailed. Cooley made it clear that they use the address “where they lay their head” as their residence address, but they needed a mailing address for the Board of Elections to send them a verification card.
Cooley’s concentration on mail delivery addresses had more to do with mailing a ballot to another person than getting the voter a voter card. Cooley focused in on the fact that it was very important to get homeless people to request an absentee ballot at the same time as they register to vote because if they didn’t do it then, she said, they probably wouldn’t vote at all.
This is where her talk ended up on the bizarre side. She suggested the homeless person would want to send the verification card and the ballot to the home of a “near relative” or legal guardian. Cooley explained that in North Carolina elections, “near relative” means “spouse, brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, stepparent, or stepchild.” A near relative can request a ballot for a voter, and the near relative can also assist a voter when he or she votes, but nowhere do the statutes even suggest that homeless people should use the address of a near relative for a mailing address, although they can, but listening to Dr. Cooley one would believe it is routine and perhaps even required.
(The following quotations in boldface are unedited transcriptions from a recording of her talk, as mentioned above. Key times are also noted.)
“But where does the voter want the ballot to go to? — That voter is going to say, I want my ballot to go to my near relative. So who’s that near relative?”
After Cooley recites the list of near relatives she says,
12:53: “…. and these are persons who have an interest in that homeless person. So that ballot can go to that near relative who can vote that ballot, in a manner that is in the best interest of that homeless person.”
The citizens in Pasquotank County let this information settle in and then someone offers a question:
Q1: I’ve recently become power of attorney for my parents.
Cooley interrupts: Legal guardian also,
Q1: Well, I guess so, but I am power of attorney. Can I vote their ballots as power of attorney?
Cooley: Yes, ma’am, uh huh, yes ma’am, you can request those ballots.
Q1: Okay, I can request them, but can I vote for them?
Cooley: Yes, ma’am, yes ma’am.
Another man asks:
Q2: Wait a minute, does that mean she can mark their ballots?
Cooley: “Yes sir, she can. Well, she has power of attorney, so yes she can do that. And with the other relatives you’re going to make sure you work that out. You’re going to vote your mom’s ballot because your mom wants you to vote that ballot and we’ll get to that a little bit later.”
Cooley then talks about mental incompetency, inactive voters, provisional ballots and voting assistance, including curbside voting. Then she returns to voter registration and absentee ballot request forms.
Cooley gives detailed descriptions of churches and sororities and fraternities working together to register voters in housing projects and senior citizen communities and gave exhaustive instructions on how to conduct a voter drive that included absentee ballot request forms. Cooley turns her focus on churches and what can be done to raise awareness, register voters and request absentee mail ballots within the church. Cooley says that she talks two to three minutes every Sunday at her church about voting. It was at this time she asks if anyone had questions.
Q3: If I am a near relative am I able to fill out the ballot for … (Cooley interrupts)
Cooley: “You can vote that ballot for that person, but you all must be in agreement about that, you can’t just decide, I just can’t decide my brother don’t vote so I am just going to go get a ballot and vote it for him, you all must be in agreement about that. OK.
“Because he could decide this year ‘I am going to go vote.’ You must have a discussion about that, he must give you permission to do that or that’s just the way you operate with that voter.”
Without any prompting, Cooley decides to tell a story about her brother and takes her interpretation of North Carolina’s voter laws to a new level.
“Now my brother, likes to drink a little toddy, he ain’t going to make it to early voting, he ain’t going to make it to vote on election day, but every year he expects me to request an absentee ballot and vote the ballot for him. ‘Sister, did I vote?’ That’s what they call me – ‘Sister, did I vote?’ Yes, you did. And, everything is fine.”
Q3: So I can fill out a ballot for somebody else if I qualify as a near relative.
Cooley: Yes, ma’am, you can.
Cooley moves to one last topic, a very serious topic and one that has an ugly history in North Carolina.
“It is against the law for anybody who works in a nursing home, rest home, mental health clinic, substance abuse clinic, hospital or group home, if you work there, it’s against the law for you to assist anybody who is a patient or resident in any of these facilities in the voting process.”
“Now, you can go to jail. Charges can be pressed. I know we think we’re doing some good. But, all I am saying is that it’s against the law – if you get caught.”
That’s right, Cooley stressed that it’s against the law – “If you get caught.”
Then Cooley asks the audience: How do these people vote? She tells them that they have near relatives who request ballots on their behalf. She then lays out another scenario where a daughter of the patient will have the ballot sent to her (the daughter’s) house and she will vote it on her mom’s behalf.
“Or maybe daughter says send the ballot to my house and daughter is going to vote that ballot because mom and daughter have discussed it and mom just says go ahead and vote it for me.”
Cooley then discusses Multipartisan Assistance Teams, MATs, teams sanctioned by the SBE, that go to clinics, group homes, etc. when they are asked to assist voters in the absentee voting process. Next, Cooley discusses the provision in the law that allows someone other than a near relative or legal guardian to help the patient if the MAT can’t accommodate a request for help within seven calendar days of a telephonic request to the county board of elections. Unfortunately, Cooley got this completely wrong, too. She told the group that if the MAT couldn’t assist in that seven-day window, then anyone, even employees of the facility, could assist the voter.
This is contrary to North Carolina law, specifically NCGS 163-226.3(a)(4). See the statute at the end of the article.
Cooley may very well be considered an effective speaker; there is no doubt she relates to and engages the audience. She appears to do that by aligning herself with the audience and vilifying the electoral process, local board of elections staff and the organization that pays her – the North Carolina State Board of Elections. She is supposed to be instilling a sense of trust in the electoral process and the people who administer elections, but what she does is the direct opposite.
In an article on the WECT TV website reporting on Cooley’s presentation to a group in Brunswick County on March 9, Cooley’s advice encouraged residents at the event not to be pushed around by people at the polling sites.
During the presentation in Pasquotank County, she told several “stories” that put the local election boards in a bad light. One story was about an Orange County BOE employee mistakenly requiring inactive voters to vote a provisional ballot. She said:
“People feel very uncomfortable when they leave after voting a provisional ballot because provisional is a bad word, an unsafe word, it’s never been trusted.”
Here too she is wrong. Having a voter vote a provisional ballot is simply a way to ensure it is properly checked if there are legitimate questions involved.
The Danger in Absentee Voting
There was so much wrong with Dr. Cooley’s presentation on Thursday, and from what I understand attendees at the Wednesday meeting heard much of the same thing. It’s disturbing to think that she has been traveling to many of North Carolina’s communities repeating lies and misrepresentations, basically putting our sacred right to vote in jeopardy. Cooley is telling the crowds that come to learn from her that it is lawful to vote for someone else as long as you are a “near relative” or have power of attorney or are a legal guardian. She is inducing others to commit voter fraud and she has committed voter fraud as well.
The Left, in opposing voter photo ID laws, has always told us that absentee by mail is where committing voter fraud would be the easiest. That’s why hearing Dr. Cooley lay out a plan to increase absentee mail requests and possibly encourage voter fraud seems to be a fulfillment of their predictions of voter fraud in absentee ballots.
Believe it or not, there is even a slide in her presentation that put it in writing, along with the State Board logo, for all the world to see. At the bottom of the slide is the statement that a “near relative” can vote the ballot on their behalf.
So what do we do now? It appears that the SBE has hired an employee with an agenda. We need to know whether it is the State Board’s agenda too. Who hired Dr. Cooley and why? Who is responsible for her supervision and how in the world can such a travesty have happened in North Carolina at such a crucial time? People all over the state have heard Dr. Cooley’s misleading message. How much damage has she done?
It’s time to clean house at the SBE.
If we can’t trust the people that are in charge, the people who are required by law to protect ALL of our votes, then it’s time for a fresh start. The buck stops with Kim Strach, executive director of the SBE. The state board of elections needs to pull Dr. Cooley off the road and review the entire “Voter Outreach” effort immediately. Somehow the SBE needs to reach all the groups Cooley has ever addressed. Additionally, county boards of elections will have to pay particular attention to absentee ballots to assure that signatures are legitimate and have not been forged. Based on this recording, people have been led to believe that it is acceptable and legal to complete another person’s ballot.
Moreover, it is past time to look at the way we administer elections and campaign finance at the state level. We have an outdated staff and structure that is set up for a state half the size of what we have now and for a time when North Carolinians voted in-person on one day instead of the current 18 days plus absentee by mail balloting, which occurs 60 days leading up to Election Day.
At 5:38 pm this afternoon the State Board of Elections issued a press release regarding this Civitas report
Here is the text of the release:
| FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016
| Patrick Gannon (919) 715-1790
Statement Regarding Civitas Institute Report
End of Release
Voting Fraud Felonies
We only need to look as far as these two statutes (below) to determine multiple felonies have very possibly committed. Cooley stepped all over 163-226.3 and while she admitted to committing voter fraud, she also induced others to do so and that is under NCGS163-275(7).
NCGS § 163-226.3. Certain acts declared felonies.
- Any person who shall, in connection with absentee voting in any election held in this State, do any of the acts or things declared in this section to be unlawful, shall be guilty of a Class I felony. It shall be unlawful:
(1) For any person except the voter’s near relative or the voter’s verifiable legal guardian to assist the voter to vote an absentee ballot when the voter is voting an absentee ballot other than under the procedure described in G.S. 163-227.2; provided that if there is not a near relative or legal guardian available to assist the voter, the voter may request some other person to give assistance;
(2) For any person to assist a voter to vote an absentee ballot under the absentee voting procedure authorized by G.S. 163-227.2 except as provided in that section;
(3) For a voter who votes an absentee ballot under the procedures authorized by G.S. 163-227.2 to vote that voter’s absentee ballot outside of the voting booth or private room provided to the voter for that purpose in or adjacent to the office of the county board of elections or at the additional site provided by G.S. 163-227.2(f1), or to receive assistance except as provided in G.S. 163-227.2;
(4) For any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person, other than the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to (i) make a written request pursuant to G.S. 163-230.1 or (ii) sign an application or certificate as a witness, on behalf of a registered voter, who is a patient in any hospital, clinic, nursing home or rest home in this State or for any owner, manager, director, employee, or other person other than the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to mark the voter’s absentee ballot or assist such a voter in marking an absentee ballot. This subdivision does not apply to members, employees, or volunteers of the county board of elections, if those members, employees, or volunteers are working as part of a multipartisan team trained and authorized by the county board of elections to assist voters with absentee ballots. Each county board of elections shall train and authorize such teams, pursuant to procedures which shall be adopted by the State Board of Elections. If neither the voter’s near relative nor a verifiable legal guardian is available to assist the voter, and a multipartisan team is not available to assist the voter within seven calendar days of a telephonic request to the county board of elections, the voter may obtain such assistance from any person other than (i) an owner, manager, director, employee of the hospital, clinic, nursing home, or rest home in which the voter is a patient or resident; (ii) an individual who holds any elective office under the United States, this State, or any political subdivision of this State; (iii) an individual who is a candidate for nomination or election to such office; or (iv) an individual who holds any office in a State, congressional district, county, or precinct political party or organization, or who is a campaign manager or treasurer for any candidate or political party; provided that a delegate to a convention shall not be considered a party office. None of the persons listed in (i) through (iv) of this subdivision may sign the application or certificate as a witness for the patient.
(5) Repealed by Session Laws 1987, c. 583, s. 8.
(6) For any person to take into that person’s possession for delivery to a voter or for return to a county board of elections the absentee ballot of any voter, provided, however, that this prohibition shall not apply to a voter’s near relative or the voter’s verifiable legal guardian;
(7) Except as provided in subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4) of this section, G.S. 163-231(a), and G.S. 163-227.2(e), for any voter to permit another person to assist the voter in marking that voter’s absentee ballot, to be in the voter’s presence when a voter votes an absentee ballot, or to observe the voter mark that voter’s absentee ballot.
(b) The State Board of Elections or a county board of elections, upon receipt of a sworn affidavit from any qualified voter of the State or the county, as the case may be, attesting to first-person knowledge of any violation of subsection (a) of this section, shall transmit that affidavit to the appropriate district attorney, who shall investigate and prosecute any person violating subsection (a). (1979, c. 799, s. 4; 1983, c. 331, s. 2; 1985, c. 563, s. 4; 1987, c. 565, s. 7; c. 583, ss. 8, 10; 1995, c. 243, s. 1; 1999-455, s. 3; 2005-428, s. 5(b); 2007-391, s. 29(a); 2013-381, s. 4.6(a); 2014-111, s. 15(a).)
NCGS 163-275(7) Certain acts declared felonies.
Any person who shall in connection with any primary, general or special election held in this State, do any of the acts or things declared in this section to be unlawful, shall be guilty of a Class I felony. It shall be unlawful:
(7) For any person with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time, or to induce another to do so, in the same primary or election, or to vote illegally at any primary or election.