The do-over election in Pembroke that is scheduled for March 11 is likely to produce results that town’s residents can trust, but it also might provide additional evidence of fraud in the Nov. 5 election for those who stubbornly cling to the notion that there was none — assuming those people exist.
The last time we did this dance was in 2007, when a Lumberton City Council election ended in a tie and then months later, one of those candidates, the incumbent, defeated the other, the challenger, in a relative landslide. That raised eyebrows, but not much more. At that time there was no determined investigation of how the results from two elections featuring the same candidates in the same district only months apart could be so disparate.
This time whistles are sounding all around. Not only has the state Board of Elections ordered a new election, but information has been sent to the local District Attorney’s Office, which has promised to bring criminal charges against anyone that evidence suggests broke election laws. Robeson County has also caught the attention of the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, a volunteer group in Raleigh that has taken on the assignment of demonstrating that voter fraud is not only real, but that it is widespread and it turns elections.
All this is happening as new laws crafted to combat fraud are taking effect. The Pembroke do-over election will debut a couple of the new laws in this county — the period for early voting will be condensed, closing somewhat the window for fraud to occur, and the bigger culprit, same-day registration and voting, will have been eliminated. The new voter ID, which last week became available to those who need it, will not take effect until the 2016 presidential election.
The new election laws aren’t a panacea, but we are gladdened that they will make more difficult the task of stealing elections by driving low- and no-information voters to the polls in exchange for coffee and a donut. In Robeson County, that has been done with impunity, and the salt in the wound is those who are hijacking these elections are also enjoying a pretty robust payday while laughing at the rest of us.
With the new elections laws, the increased scrutiny and the threat of criminal charges, those who profit off of these elections will at the minimum have to work a little harder for their money. At best, they will no longer be the lead character in deciding who governs our communities.