Voting irregularities in North Carolina accounted for just 0.01 percent of nearly 4.8 million votes in last year’s general election, according to a State Board Of Elections audit released on Friday.
The State Board Of Elections said that even if every irregularity was proven to be voter fraud, there wasn’t enough of it to have influenced the outcome of any race.
“One ineligible vote is too many in any election; however, our analysis of irregularities does not indicate any contest was affected in November,” Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said in a statement.
The audit comes as the Supreme Court is considering whether to hear North Carolina’s appeal from a lower court ruling blocking its controversial 2013 photo voter ID law, which lawmakers argued was needed to prevent voter fraud. The audit also is a slap to former Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who claimed there was voter fraud in the November election and refused to concede his defeat.
Officials in other states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, have been able to offer only scant examples of voter fraud. President Donald Trump, who won North Carolina in last year’s presidential election, has alleged that millions of illegal votes were cast for his opponent Hillary Clinton in the U.S. election. Trump has offered no evidence for the claim.
North Carolina’s audit describes few instances of outright fraud.
“The evidence suggests that participation by ineligible voters is neither rampant nor non-existent in North Carolina,” the audit report said. “Our audits suggest that in the 2016 general election, approximately 0.01% of ballots were cast by ineligible voters. Most incidents are isolated and uncoordinated, and detecting technical violations does not always prove purposefully unlawful conduct. Our work indicates that ineligible voters are not isolated to one political party or any geographical region of the state.”
The audit found there were 441 investigations into suspected felons voting, 41 cases of non-citizens voting, and 24 substantiated cases of double voting. The audit found just two cases of voter impersonation ― the kind of fraud a photo ID voting requirement aims to prevent.
North Carolina in 2013 passed a law that requires voters to show photo ID at the polls, shortened the early voting period, and eliminated same-day voter registration.
Critics argued the law is unnecessary because illegal voting is rare and the the law made it disproportionately more difficult for African Americans, poor and elderly residents to vote. A federal appeals court last year blocked the state from implementing the law, ruling that it targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.”
The audit provides a glimpse into why people vote illegally. Often, the motive is confusion about the law. In the 41 cases of non-citizens voting, for example, the Board of Elections found that all of the individuals were in the United States legally and didn’t know they were prohibited from voting. Some had been misinformed by canvassers. One woman who had registered to vote had lived in the United States for 50 years and thought she had citizenship because she had been married to a U.S. citizen.
The two cases of voter impersonation involved one woman who forged her husband’s signature on a mail-in ballot, and another who voted in person on behalf of her deceased mother. The audit found the “suspects in each case indicated that they were motivated out of a desire to carry out their loved one’s voting wishes.” The Board of Elections said it is reviewing an additional 19 cases of potential voter impersonation, but some of those cases appeared to be cases of mistaken identity.
The report also shows how easily someone can mistakenly be accused of illegally voting. The board found during its probe of voting by non-citizens that “even where data from the Division of Motor Vehicles, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the voter rolls matched exactly, a high proportion of flagged individuals were citizens.” Some felons suspected of illegally voting presented information to auditors showing they were actually eligible.
Earlier this week, Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights group, called for a criminal investigation of McCrory’s campaign and the Republican Party of North Carolina, saying both groups brought frivolous challenges to legitimate votes. The group also released a report detailing the humiliation of legitimate voters who were nonetheless accused of fraud.
The state GOP chairman said the party was “dismayed but not surprised” by the audit.
“This report confirms instances of illegal voting by convicted felons, illegal immigrants, and people voting under other names, including dead voters,” party chair Robin Hayes said in statement that ignored the fact that the audit found a miniscule number of irregularities. “These people should be investigated and criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
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