PEMBROKE — Allegations of possible fraud in the November council races in Pembroke have caught the attention of a statewide volunteer organization that works for “free and fair elections.”
Jay N. DeLancy, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, on Thursday requested from the Robeson County Board of Elections electronic copies of the formal protest filed by council candidate Teresa Locklear after the winner in her race with veteran Councilman Allen Dial was announced. The group also wants electronic copies of challenge and protest hearings pertaining to the Pembroke Town Council races that were forwarded to the state Board of Elections before that board’s ruling on Dec. 20 that a new election must be held for the three council seats that were contested in November.
Teresa Bledsoe, interim director of the county Board of Elections, said Friday that the documents requested by DeLancy have been forwarded for his review.
As a result of the state board’s ruling, which also included that all allegations of possible voter fraud be handed over to the local District Attorney’s Office to see if criminal charges are warranted, a new election has been scheduled for March 11. The new election affects two four-year term council seats and one seat for a two-year unexpired term. The November results awardedone four-year term to high-vote getter Channing Jones, a challenger, while the incumbent Allen Dial and challenger Teresa Locklear tied for the second four-year seat. Dial won the seat by a draw of a card.
After a recount of votes to fill the remaining two-year term of the late Robert Williamson, Mitch Lowry appeared to defeat former Councilman Larry McNeill by just four votes.
DeLancy, whose group uses database analysis to detect irregularities in voting records that could suggest patterns of fraud, said he became interested in the Pembroke elections when heard that during a challenge hearing before the county Board of Elections a voter testified under oath that she was transported to the polls during early voting by a candidate and coached on what to say when questioned about her residency.
“This type of thing disturbs us. It’s alarming,” DeLancy said. “If this is happening in your county, there is no reason to believe that this type of fraud is not happening in other counties across the state.”
DeLancy said that his organization, incorporated in 2011, is convinced from voter data collected and analyzed that voter fraud exists throughout North Carolina.
“We want people to be aware of that,” he said. “… We think it’s helpful to the public to understand the extent of the problem.”
DeLancy told The Robesonian on Thursday that allowing people to register to vote and vote on the same day during an early voting period, a practice that as of Jan. 1 is illegal in North Carolina, can be “hugely abused” and opens the door to voter fraud. He also said that he believes state legislators took appropriate action to reduce the possibility of fraud when they included in recent elections reform a reduction in the number of days of early voting and that photo IDs be required of voters when they cast their ballots beginning in 2016.
DeLancy said that he and his organization are not always warmly welcomed by local elections officials.
“We raise issues that make county boards work their tails off to provide information about election challenges,” he said.
Voter Integrity Project takes credit for discovering the names of almost 30,000 dead people still on North Carolina voter rolls; finding more than 100 people who voted in the 2008 election that later were determined not to be citizens; and gathering enough evidence to persuade the state Board of Elections to make criminal referrals against five people who voted twice in the November 2012 election.