During my visit to North Carolina earlier this month, my father brought up the subject of voter fraud saying, “I don’t want my vote stolen. Did you know there are 30,000 dead people on the voter rolls here in North Carolina?” Actually, I didn’t know that. I knew about the efforts here in Florida to purge thousands of people from our voter rolls because they supposedly aren’t citizens. From watching The Rachel Maddow Show I knew about the efforts at voter suppression in Pennsylvania and also Ohio. I even transcribed one of the episodes about Ohio and was aware of a Tea Party organization that started in Houston called True the Vote, but up until that point I had not seen or read about any voter suppression efforts in North Carolina. Even though my father implied that the 30,000 dead people were names that others would use to commit in person voter fraud, I knew there had to be more to the story and this was yet another voter suppression effort being pushed by the GOP. Without knowledge or facts at that point, I did not respond to my father’s insinuation with the full intention of doing some research later.
I never got around to doing that research because the visit devolved and ended in an argument that I’m still angry about. I haven’t spoken to my father since I left, and right now I’m still not in a frame of mind to talk to him. So I had quite forgotten about those 30,000 dead voters. I forgot about it that is until Thursday night when I watched The Rachel Maddow Show and the opening segment was about 30,000 dead voters in North Carolina. Boy, howdy, did my ears perk up when I heard Rachel mention that number, and as is my habit, I’ve included the embedded video and a complete transcript of the segment below the fleur-de-orange.
Here’s the long and short of it. Part of the duties of election boards in counties all over this country is to compare death records from vital statistics departments to existing voter roll and purge those people from the rolls.
The Voter Integrity Project delivered the names to the elections board on Aug. 31, saying it was concerned about the potential for voting fraud. The board began reviewing the list last Tuesday and determined that it had almost 20,000 of the names from a 10-year audit of data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Veronica Degraffenreid, the board’s director of voter registration and absentee voting.During Rachel’s interview with Ms. Degraffenreid, I also learned that the people they were able to identify as having voted after they died did so by absentee ballot. In other words, they mailed in their ballot and then died. The irony burns because my father, who is 80 and in poor health, also mentioned to me that his one wish is that he lives until November 6 so that he can vote in the upcoming election, or at least be able to cast a ballot by mail. If I were talking to my father, I would want to ask him if he were to vote by mail and then die before the election, if the thought his vote should be thrown out. Of course, already know the answer would be no because that’s why he would want to vote by mail in the first place.
More than one third of those 20,000 names were already listed as inactive, meaning they were on track for removal from the voting rolls, Degraffenreid said.
N.C. elections board reviewing names of purportedly dead voters, The News & Observer, September 21, 2012
Something else that stood out in the segment is, as Rachel rightly points out, that all these efforts by the True the Vote groups around the country who are trying to identify in person voter fraud, and especially the Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina are having another effect. They are tying up the limited resources of election offices who are trying to prepare for the election. Hundreds of hours were spent researching that list of 30,000 dead people, essentially wasting tax dollars on a futile effort to identify in person voter fraud. I wonder what my father thinks about his tax dollars being used in such a wasteful manner. Never mind. I know he is more likely to think that there is a cover-up going on here rather than his tax dollars being wasted. I already know he thinks that if President Obama is reelected it will be because of voter fraud; not because it was the real vote. And if Mitt Romney is elected, it won’t be because of voter suppression but because it is the will of the people.
Another thing that Rachel pointed out about the Voter Integrity Project is the fact that on their website they said that they were a non-partisan non-profit organization, That is, they said that until The Rachel Maddow Show called to ask about that claim after visiting the North Carolina secretary of state’s website and discovering they were not a non-profit. After that happened all references to non-profit were removed from the website. I took it a step further. When I visited the site to get the url links to embed with the transcription, I saw a donate button. I was curious to see if they claimed to be non-profit on that page, so I clicked it to find this disclaimer:
The bad news is that you DO NOT get any sort of tax deductions for supporting this worthy project. But the good news is that your contributions carry no campaign-reporting requirements. In other words, a gift to us will not result in a hit piece about you in the News & Observer or other such fine publications!Unbelievable! In other words they are saying, “Help us to suppress the vote and we promise nobody will find out you were involved.”
Finally, Rachel also talked about one woman who is a senior citizen, African-American and registered as a Democrat. Remember how here in Florida they sent out letters to citizens challenging there citizenship, only to find out that some of the recipients were American citizens who were forced to prove they were actually citizens? In North Carolina, citizenship isn’t being challenged. The woman received a letter in the mail from her county elections board informing her that she might be dead. Her reaction was one of anger. Once again, I thought about my father. The group that put together that list of 30,000 people worked with incomplete data. That’s why they matched the names of people who actually were dead with people who are still alive.
I have an account at Ancestry.com, so I did a search of social security death records for people who had my father’s first and last name who have died in the last 10 years. I came up with a list of about 150 names. At least 50 of them could be mixed up with my father because of their age and having died in North Carolina or a nearby state. Did I mention that one of the complaints of the Voter Integrity Project was that the state of North Carolina wasn’t accounting for deaths in other states?
The Voter Integrity Project’s list includes the names of North Carolinians who died in other states. They include those who died in Virginia and South Carolina, which account for 55 percent of North Carolina’s out-of-state deaths but are among a handful of states that do not allow death information to be used to maintain another states’ voting rolls.I can just picture my father’s reaction if he had received a letter from his election board informing him that he might be dead, but he would have no problem with other citizens being put through this insult.
N.C. elections board reviewing names of purportedly dead voters, The News & Observer, September 21, 2012
If you live in North Carolina, or know people who do, please take some time to watch or read the segment below so you know what’s going on with the 30,000 dead people in North Carolina who really aren’t voting. Evidently, the GOP in North Carolina tried but failed to pass Voter ID laws, and so this is the next best thing they could come up with to suppress the vote in North Carolina. It’s despicable. After spending all this time transcribing the segment, it was so uplifting to read KGardner’s diary, "Obama's Ground Game Will Make 2008 Look Like Jurassic Park" - Here's Your Ground Game, where she details the extraordinary efforts that she and other members of her community in Knoxville, Tennessee, are exerting to GOTV in North Carolina.
I will confess to being slightly more allergic to reporting on new polls than the average person who works in cable news. Generally, I think that polls are made to seem more important than they are, most days, in terms of predictive value for elections that are sometimes really far away. Right? Far away in time. But at this point in the election, when we are less than 50 days out and the playing field has narrowed for the presidency to few enough states that you do not need two full hands to count them, now; now is the time to go ahead and look. Now is the time to actually be following these day by day.For those with iPads who can't see the video embedded, here's the direct link to the MSNBC site where you can watch it.
This week earlier on the show we have shown you a version of this map, the swing states and the maybe swing states in this election, along with what the current polling shows us about who is winning. We updated these numbers today, but with regard to who is ahead in these swing states and where, not much has changed. Mitt Romney still leads in one of these nine states, in New Hampshire. And if you look at North Carolina, you can see Governor Romney had been ahead in North Carolina, but the latest poll out of North Carolina now shows the North Carolina race to be tied, 46/46. But here's the other number you need to know about North Carolina right now. It is that one: 30,000. That's the number of voters who are on the North Carolina voting rolls that a self-appointed, supposedly nonpartisan Tea Party outfit has announced should be stripped from the rolls; 30,000 people. The Tea Party group says 30,000 people need to be dropped off the North Carolina voting rolls because this group, this Tea Party group, has determined that those 30,000 voters are all dead people. And the group is therefore challenging those voter registrations now in North Carolina with the election less than 50 days away [See Group says it found 30,000 dead North Carolinians registered to vote, The News & Observer, September 6, 2012].
A couple of weeks ago, this group calling itself the Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina delivered a list of almost 30,000 names to that state's board of elections. The group's leader said that 90% of the names on its list should be taken off the rolls for sure, and they handed those names to election officials. Now they got tons of dramatic, great press when they did that. Here's one local t.v. station in North Carolina reporting, because this group told them so, that these 30,000 North Carolina voters on this list are dead; they say so.Video Report from NBC-17 Raleigh, NC (August 30, 2012)Doesn't know how many of those names were used to vote illegally yet. Of the state's six million voters, 30,000 are dead. That's the press on the Voter Integrity Project in the swing state of North Carolina. But guess what? Those 30,000 people are not all dead, even if this Tea Party affiliated Voter Integrity Project says they are. We know these people aren't dead because North Carolina officials started the laborious process of reviewing this list of allegedly dead voters last week. They whittled the list down to 5,000 names that matched up enough for a second look, and they started sending out letters to those voters [See N.C. elections board reviewing names of purportedly dead voters, The News & Observer, September 21, 2012]. And the results so far have been spectacular. Look at this. One voter, Carolyn Perry has been voting in North Carolina since 1967 (Note: this is an error; the article says she started voting in Ohio in 1967, but registered to vote in North Carolina in 1975). This month she got a letter from her county board of elections saying she might not be qualified to vote any more on account of she might be dead. She says quote My initial reaction? I was mad as hell [See Not dead, but still voting, WRAL, September 17, 2012]. Yeah understandably. Carolyn Perry's county is sending these you might be dead letters to 148 voters because of this kick the people off the voting rolls process that was started by a North Carolina Tea Party group. They've sent letters to these voters alleging that they are dead. And actually, already 42 of the people on the list have raised their living hands and said, Hold on there. Hold on there a minute now. I do not appear to be dead at least when I look at myself in the mirror. So far North Carolina election officials say they have not a single instance, not one, of anybody on the Tea Party group's challenge list who has voted when they were not supposed to vote. So the press is saying because this Tea Party group says so that 30,000 of the voters in North Carolina; 30,000 of the votes in North Carolina were maybe cast in dead people's names. Right, 30,000 massive fraud. The real number, at least so far, is zero. As for Carolyn Perry, she told the local press her theory on why she got challenged, she said quote I'm a senior, and I'm an African-American. And I'm not registered as the same party they are most likely. Carolyn Perry I should tell you is a Democrat.
Anchor woman: Volunteers focused on finding dead voters say they have proof of the wide spread problem across the state. Members from the Voter Integrity Project cross-referenced data from the public health department with registered voters. Of the state's six million voters, 30,000 are dead, and while it's a small percentage the group's executive director says it has significant implications.
Video of Jay DeLancey speaking: Thirty thousand is a lot of people considering the last presidential election was won by 14,000, or close to 15,000. So yes you're looking at as a percentage, you go so what, this is a minor number. But that's a lot of people that are on the roll and any of them can have their identify stolen.
Anchor woman: The group says it doesn't know how many of the 30,000 names were actually used to vote illegally yet. Next step, volunteers will match names with voting records.
So North Carolina started out with challenges to 30,000 registered voters. At last report, those challenges have revealed goose egg for an actual problem; zero actual problem voters. Today North Carolina officials told us they have put the suspect names through a rigorous series of checks, comparing the names to property records and birth registries and voter histories and death certificates. They have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours, searching and researching, and they tell us this quote We haven't found any instances of voter fraud. But the folks in North Carolina also told us this; they told us that election officials in the state essentially have two main responsibilities. The first responsibility is to make sure the voter rolls are correct. It is their civic duty; it is their charge to keep the rolls up-to-date. And that is why, for instance, North Carolina, removes several tens of thousands of voters from the rolls every year because those voters are, in fact, dead. Those names get cleared from the rolls regularly as a matter of course. But the election board's second responsibility is to make sure the elections work right for the people who are on the rolls starting with preventing eligible voters who ought to be able to vote without a problem from being blocked from doing that. The work of an election's board has real material consequences to all of us. If they do their job well; if they're able to devote sufficient time and resources and skill to the process of organizing an election, then the lines aren't too long. And there aren't too many frustrations about getting polling places open and machines working and stuff proceeding in a way that is well organized that enough people are not dissuaded from voting by the difficulty of trying to vote itself that the election outcome is affected by the difficulty of voting.
Maybe the smooth running of the process of voting doesn't make a huge difference in the outcome in states where the result is a blowout, but in 2008 as you heard the Tea Party Guy say, the election in North Carolina was decided by a teeny, teeny, teeny, teeny, teeny, tiny margin of 14,000 votes. And with a margin that slim, and remember the polls right now in North Carolina are straight up, a straight up tie; with a margin that tight, anything that makes it harder to vote in North Carolina could change the outcome in North Carolina, and therefore could change the outcome of the presidential race. Anything that makes it harder; either because people are told they are dead when they are not and then they have to prove otherwise, or because the process of lots of people having to go through that process, right, slows everything down for everybody else. Or because the whole effort and attention to running the election has been diverted. Right? So the elections board has had to spend hundreds of man hours and lots of their finite resources on a giant make work wild bullpucky chase instead of preparing for the election. Any of that could affect the election, right?
So who's doing this? Who is essentially draining the resources of North Carolina election officials in the weeks before the elections, making this chase this wild goose chase instead of doing their work? Who's doing this at this really critical time when we really need those elections workers to be doing their work? Who's doing it? Well, the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina traces its roots back to the same vote challenging machine that grew out of a Tea Party chapter in Houston, Texas, True the Vote. Right? And this North Carolina version of the Tea Party group True the Vote is following the exact same playbook that they're following in other states [See Looking, Very Closely, for Voter Fraud, The New York Times, September 16, 2012]. We've talked about it in swing state Ohio recently, for example, where the True the Vote Tea Party voter integrity project there claims to have found over 700,000 voters in Ohio who they say should be stripped from the voter rolls now before the November election [See Group to sue for purge of the rolls, The Cincinnati Enquirer, August 26, 2012]. Similar Tea Party groups are doing the same thing, reportedly in parts of California and Illinois and in Arizona. But here is a thing to know about them in terms of who they are and how they represent themselves. This Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina, the one that say Carolyn Perry is dead and needs her name stripped off the voter rolls when she is very much alive and has been voting in that state for 45 years; this Voter Integrity Project that has submitted the names of 30,000 other North Carolina voters that they want stripped of their ability to vote, this group is characterized in the press in North Carolina as a nonpartisan, nonprofit [See N.C. elections board reviewing names of purportedly dead voters, The News & Observer, September 21, 2012].
And you can see why the press says that because look, on the Voter Integrity Project's own website quote the Voter Integrity Project (VIP) is a non-partisan non-profit organization. We looked up this non-partisan non-profit voter integrity project today on the North Carolina Secretary of State's website. That's where the state keeps the records on who's a non-profit organization in the state, and look at what we found. This is the line for the Voter Integrity Project. They filed their papers on June 26th. Okay, so they're new. But see where it says BUS? That BUS is not short for autobus. It is short for business. They're not listed as a non-profit. They're a business. We called the state to make sure we were not misreading this and they said, no you are reading that right. This Voter Integrity Project group which calls itself a non-profit, and which is trying to get 30,000 North Carolina voters stripped off the rolls; they're calling themselves a non-profit but they are actually a business. Here are the incorporation papers for the Voter Integrity Project, complete with 200 shares of common stock currently valued at nothing [Click PDF link on this page: Corporate Filings For: VOTER INTEGRITY PROJECT NC, INC.]. After we asked the Voter Integrity Project why they described themselves to the state as a business but they describe themselves to the public as a non-profit, they said it was an error. They said it was a mistake and then they took the word non-profit off their materials after we asked them about it.
The reason it matters how this Tea Party group, this Voter Integrity Project describes itself, and in contrast what it is as opposed to how it describes itself; the reason it's important is that with non-profits, their tax returns are public. The law says, you, ordinary you, can see any non-profits tax returns. You can discover who is funding them, you can discover how they are spending their money, you can discover who is in charge and what exactly they are up to as they try to kick 30,000 North Carolina voters off the voter rolls this soon before the election. Now that we know they're not a non-profit; now that we know that they're actually filed as a business despite what they maintain to the state, we may never know exactly what they're up to and who's funding them. Not now, not even next year; not even after the elections sometime later next year. Right? When frankly it might be too late anyway to understand why they did what they did. Joining us now is Veronica Degraffenreid from the North Carolina State Board of Elections; Ms. Degraffenreid, thank you so much for your time tonight for helping understand this.
VD: Absolutely. Good evening, Rachel.
RM: Good evening. I know that the issue of challenging votes and voter registration obviously comes with a lot of political and partisan implications. I also understand that your job is the epitome of non-partisan. I want to make that very clear from the outset. I know you approach this from a totally non-partisan perspective. But I have to ask you if this has happened before. In the past have there been outside groups challenging tens of thousands of voter registrations in your state this close to an election?
VD: No. This is a novel approach. Certainly most voter challenges deal with residency issues, and we've never had a group come in before and challenged these numbers of voters at one time.
RM: Obviously you have to respond to these challenges now because they've been put forth to your office. What else would you and your office be doing if you were not devoting these resources and time into pouring over all these tens of thousands of records? What's the usual work of your elections board in a big national contested election season?
VD: well, I mean, obviously we're getting ready for the election, and we're still doing that. I mean, our county boards of elections, we have a 100 counties in North Carolina, absolutely are getting absentee ballots out. People are already voting in North Carolina. We're sending out ballots out to our military and overseas citizens and we will continue to do that. Also we're training our poll workers and just making sure that on election day and early voting is going to be starting in a couple of weeks so there are things that we have to do. We will continue to do those things. However, this process has used a lot of our resources, a lot of our time. But when we're presented with challenges to voters in North Carolina, we take that seriously. I think you mentioned at the start of your program that we have a dual responsibility, and that is to insure that anyone who is not eligible and qualified to vote, that they're removed. But we also need to insure that people who are qualified remain a registered voter and that they are not improperly disenfranchised.
RM: I think that's the part of this that seems so important to me and it seems like it's of national significance. As you say, you've got this dual responsibility of insuring the smooth running in the elections and also maintaining these voter rolls, but obviously you and every other agency in the country has finite resources and when you're asked to so dramatically upscale how you are dealing with one part of your responsibilities, you have to worry if the other parts of your responsibilities aren't suffering. Are you able to tap any new resources from the state or any additional resources to help you get your work done because of this extra work that's been put on you?
VD: Unfortunately not. We have not. We have been dealing with this for a couple of months now, so we think we're in pretty good shape and we are at the point that we're kind of winding down the research because what we found is that although the Voter Integrity Project used our statewide Department of Health and Human Services records or NC vital records, they didn't have all of the necessary data that they needed to make a decision as to whether or not someone was in fact deceased. And we have that information. Our counties have been pouring through their records and to the extent that they could find that someone, or confirm that someone is deceased, I mean, they're removing. They have removed those voters. So at this point, we've done the research. We haven't identified anyone to the extent that they were in fact deceased and still on the voter rolls, they've been removed, but we really haven't identified any situation where a voter or anyone has voted in the name of a person appears to be deceased.
RM: There's never been ...
VD: So we're moving full speed ...
RM: Go head. I'm sorry.
VD: That's okay. we're just moving ahead with getting ready for this election.
RM: I'm sorry to have interrupted you there. I just was going to clarify there. Has there ever been a known case in North Carolina of somebody using a dead person's name to cast a ballot?
VD: I'm sure over the years, I mean, that has happened, but it has not happened on any wide spread basis. And so what we found as part of this process, although we've spent a lot of hours, a lot of manpower into doing the research and the investigation, what this has proven is that the North Carolina voter rolls are sound. And so it should provide North Carolina's citizens with a high degree of confidence that when they go to the polls and they cast their ballot, I mean, they're doing so in a system that has a lot of integrity to be quite frank. So yes, we've spent the time, we've committed ourselves, we've done the effort but again, the outcome or the outtake from this is that the North Carolina voter rolls are sound. We are not finding any wide spread evidence that any one is using a deceased person's name to vote in North Carolina. Now out of the potential 30,000, it's really not 30,000 people who were found on the voter rolls. Many of those as right; truly weren't deceased and to the extent that there were some who may have voted after, it appeared that they voted after they died, many of those were people who cast absentee ballots. And so although their voter history date is the date of the election, they cast their ballot and then they died within days or you know weeks of the actual Election Day.
RM: Veronica Degraffenreid from the North Carolina state board of elections; thank you for your time tonight. And I'm sorry that you have had ...
VD: Thank you.
RM: all this extra work dumped on you for basically naught in your state. Good luck preparing for the election ma'am. I appreciate your time.
VD: Thank you.
RM: As a postscript, I want to add that the gentlemen from the Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina; the guy you saw in the news clip earlier, told us today that his group is absolutely not targeting voters by race or by party affiliation and he says his group apologized and feels bad about getting some of the names wrong on the list of people they said were dead who aren't dead.