Elections officials will turn over to a U.S. attorney records on fewer than 800 voters rather than the millions of voter records and ballots that the federal prosecutor initially wanted.
The State Board of Elections told county boards in a memo Wednesday that the request for voter records had been reduced to 789. Eastern North Carolina counties will turn over records of 289 voters, and the State Board of Elections will send 500 voters’ registration records, the memo said.
A spokesman for the board wouldn’t say how voters were selected.
Last August, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina subpoenaed state records on all voter registration applications, early voting application forms, federal write-in absentee ballots, and other voter records from Jan. 1, 2010 to Aug. 30, 2018, The News & Observer reported. Forty-four counties in the Eastern District also received subpoenas for voter records.
The subpoenas were issued on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The State Board of Elections voted in September to ask state Attorney General Josh Stein’s office to fight the subpoenas, saying they were overly broad and would divert officials’ attentions from preparing for the 2018 elections, The N&O reported. The original date for producing the information was Sept. 15. That deadline was pushed to January.
In a Sept. 7 letter, an attorney from Stein’s office asked U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr.’s office to narrow the request.
“We invite you to reissue subpoenas that are appropriately tailored to documents relevant to your request,” the letter said.
Stein issued a statement Wednesday saying he looked forward to the issue being resolved so investigators can focus on alleged fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
No winner has been certified in the congressional race while the state investigates potential election fraud centering on absentee ballots.
“The sanctity of our elections is essential. It is critical that North Carolinians know that their votes matter,” Stein said in the statement. “I support law enforcement’s efforts to combat election fraud, but the recent federal subpoenas affecting millions of North Carolinians’ voting records were overbroad and highly burdensome to the state agencies.
”I will continue to fight for the integrity of our elections. I will also fight to protect the privacy of law abiding North Carolinians from overreaches by the federal government.”
Officials haven’t said why ICE is seeking voter records, but Higdon’s office is prosecuting citizens from other countries that have voted here, The N&O reported.
The state’s elections director wrote the U.S. attorney’s office about suspected fraud in the 9th Congressional District in January 2017, but it appears federal authorities did not follow up with an investigation that year, The N&O reported.