Over the years, we have come to expect election-year problems from politicians in Robeson County.
Of course, we are having a redo of the 9th Congressional District due to allegations of ballot harvesting in Bladen and Robeson Counties, although there is strong evidence that the ballot harvesting was much more extensive than officials have so been willing to admit.
With less than two weeks to go before the September 10 election, it looks like Robeson County politicians are coming through again in a couple of ways. While neither yet rises to the level of illegality (as far as we know), they are worth watching.
The first is a rather odd spike in voter registrations. The first unusual thing about it is it’s size: As seen on the Civitas’ Voter Registration Changes page, Robeson had a net gain of 658 voter registrations last week. That represents an increase in registrations of almost one percent for the county (0.94 percent). No other county in the 9th Congressional District had a net change in registrations greater than 0.07 percent (the statewide increase was 0.08 percent).
Of course, you do not get that kind of registration rush spontaneously. There is clearly an organized effort going on there. The most likely source of the registrations is a voter registration drive at UNC Pembroke. Fall classes began there on August 14 and there are over a thousand freshman on campus. The folks at the Voter Integrity Project also noted that likelihood.
The other interesting thing about the Robeson County registration spike is that it is unusually tilted towards unaffiliated registrations. Over 95 percent of the net gain in registrations were unaffiliated (627 unaffiliated, 18 Democrats, 13 Republicans). In the rest of the state, 60 percent of net new registrants were unaffiliated.
With that last-minute rush of registrations, officials should be on guard so that we do not get a repeat of the early voting shenanigans we saw in Pembroke in 2013:
The board reviewed evidence that at least two candidates helped bring people to the town’s early voting location who were ineligible to vote. Some of those people, including several young men who came from out of state to attend a basketball program, managed to cast ballots because they were mistakenly registered during one-stop absentee voting.
Robeson’s county Board of Elections is also having problems. While you cannot get nominated to the local board of elections without being a trusted partisan, members are supposed to remain officially neutral between candidates. One board member has resigned and two others are under fire after being accused of actions that can be seen as endorsement of a political candidate. The State Board of Elections will hear the complaints during a hearing on September 5. Board chair Tiffany Powers, one of the members named in the complaint, donated to Dan McCready’s campaign as recently as October of 2018.