The Twitter account for Rep. Chris Malone, a Wake Forest Republican running for a fourth term in state House district 35, encouraged people last week to participate in early voting that started on Wednesday. But one tweet led to an investigation into whether a little-known election law had been broken.
The tweet, which has since been deleted, shows a picture of the ballot for Malone’s district. The bubble next to Malone’s name is filled in.
The representative quickly caught some heat on Twitter over the photo, including from the state Democratic Party spokesman.
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The reason for the backlash? It is illegal in the state of North Carolina to take photos of official ballots marked with votes.
However, Malone didn’t take the photo, according to Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the state elections board. An investigation showed the photographer was Michael Scott Davis, Gannon said in a phone interview. No further information was available about Davis, and it’s not clear how the photo made it to Malone’s Twitter account.
Gannon said neither Malone nor Davis realized photographs of ballots were illegal. Davis has received a warning from the elections board.
“The law is in place in part to deter vote buying because a photograph of a marked ballot could be used as proof to show that someone voted for a particular candidate,” Gannon said.
Gannon confirmed to The News and Observer the ballot in the tweet is a real ballot.
A follow-up tweet from Malone’s account says the “photo was taken off a sample ballot in a private residence.”
In addition, the account tweeted a photo of a sample ballot, with the caption “much Ado about nothing.” However, the sample ballot is different from the one originally posted to Malone’s account.
Malone’s name isn’t on the ballot in the follow-up tweet. Instead, the sample ballot is for district 34, where the Republican candidate is Catherine Whiteford. In addition, the ballot in the first photo has numbers equally spaced out on the side, whereas the second ballot does not.
The follow-up tweets were also deleted.
Gannon said the ballot in the original post is not a sample. He said only real ballots have the numbers on the side.
All official sample ballots from the state have “SAMPLE BALLOT” printed in red and capital letters on the side of the ballot, according to Gannon.
You can find your official sample ballot from the state by looking up your voter information online. The elections board’s voter lookup site provides voters with a sample ballot for their districts, information on where to vote and what their voter status is.
The N&O contacted Malone by phone. He said he has discussed the matter enough and did not comment further.