Under the Dome

NC elections office swamped with calls about voter data going to fraud commission

In this May 17, 2017, file photo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks with a reporter in his office in Topeka, Kan. Kobach is the vice chair of President Donald Trump's election fraud commission.
In this May 17, 2017, file photo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks with a reporter in his office in Topeka, Kan. Kobach is the vice chair of President Donald Trump's election fraud commission. AP

Some voters worried about a federal voter-fraud commission collecting information on them want to cancel their registration.

The state elections board has been deluged with calls over the last few days about how the state is handling a request from the commission for voter data – even though the board says it’s handing over only information that’s already available to the public.

Hundreds of people have called the Raleigh office of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, and at least 380 people sent email, said board spokesman Patrick Gannon.

Some of those voters – the office doesn’t have a count – are asking to cancel their registration or for instructions how to do so.

“Kindly remove my name from NC voter rolls immediately. Thank you,” one voter wrote Wednesday, adding that the commission “smells funny” and the people in charge could not be trusted.

President Donald Trump created the Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity by executive order in May. A letter that commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach sent states in late June asking for information on voters, including partial Social Security numbers and felony convictions, sparked more controversy.

The state is not giving the commission all it has, just information that’s already available to the public, board executive director Kim Westbrook Strach said in a statement.

That means the state won’t hand over Social Security numbers, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and some of the other information people use to register.

Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have refused to give the commission anything, with five still waiting to render their decisions. North Carolina is like others that are sending what’s publicly available.

Voter names, party registrations, addresses and voting histories are public information. Votes cast are private.

The board is trying to discourage people worried about the fraud commission from canceling their registration. Canceling now will not prevent information already in the database from going to the commission.

“The Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement has received phone calls and emails from voters who indicated they may cancel their registrations because of the recent federal request for voter data,” Strach said. “Also, callers have inquired about how to go about canceling their registrations. We can’t immediately say how many across the state have done so. Those requests are handled by the county boards of elections and the reason for any cancellation may not be known.

“The State Board would strongly discourage anyone from removing themselves from the rolls. The data to be made available to the Commission is publicly available to anyone at ncsbe.gov and has been for many years. This agency is required to provide it under state law.”

Dallas Woodhouse, state Republican Party executive director, said he would discourage voters from canceling their registration, unless those registrations are invalid.

“There are invalid votes being cast,” Woodhouse said. “Every invalid vote being cast nullifies a good one. Each state has a hard time figuring out who is registered in other states. Some assistance from a federal authority could be helpful.”

Bob Hall, executive director of the voting rights organization Democracy NC, called the June letter “a colossal blunder” and suspects that the commission’s intent is to make people lose faith in the electoral process.

A North Carolina elections-board audit found that 508 ineligible voters cast ballots in 2016. More than 4.8 million voters participated in the election. The agency said the incidents weren’t necessarily cases of voter fraud because voters may not have known they were committing a crime.

Note: A previous version of this story said a few states had refused to turn over any records to the voter fraud commission. The story has been updated to reflect that 16 states and Washington, D.C., had refused to turn over any records.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner