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Absentee Ballot Voter Fraud: Letter from Jim Womack
onight, I reviewed Senate Bill 824 from the 2017-2018 session. I agree with Jane Bilello that it was problematic - especially Amendment 4 by Rep. Floyd that relaxed voter ID requirements for submission of absentee ballots. The bill was vetoed by Gov Cooper in late 2018 but then over-ridden by both House and Senate in late 2018. It became session law in 2018. So, that ship has sailed.
The latest pending voter fraud bill is Senate Bill 683 (Combat Absentee Ballot Fraud), which passed the Senate this month and is now in House Rules. This bill does not appear to meaningfully alter the Voter ID provisions for absentee ballots. It does, however, seek to establish penalties for absentee ballot fraud. My review of the bill discovered what I believe to be poor language in Section 4 as follows:
SECTION 4.(a) G.S. 163A-1317 reads as rewritten: "§ 163A-1317. Certain violations of absentee ballot law made criminal offenses
(d1) Sell or Attempt to Sell Completed Written Request for Absentee Ballot Made a Class 2 Misdemeanor. – Any person who sells or attempts to sell, or purchases or agrees to purchase, a completed application and ballots, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.
In Senator Daniel's Amendment 3 to Senate Bill 683, the Senate changed the penalty from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor.
During past election cycles, I have been informed by multiple voters in Lee County that they were approached for purposes of selling their absentee ballots to an operative from a certain political party. Several confirmed they actually sold their ballots to this operative. In all cases, these voters told me they did not fill out the ballots in question, other than to sign their names to the bottom of the ballots. They called the operative once the ballots had been received at their home addresses and subsequently received monetary compensation for conveying a signed, blank ballot to the operative. None of these individuals indicated they did anything fraudulently with regards to their applications for absentee ballots; but they knew they were wrong in selling the absentee ballots they eventually received and turned over.
I see a problem applying the proposed new criminal penalties to the behavior I just described. The language in the penalty above does not punish the selling or purchase of JUST the ballot or JUST the request for an absentee ballot. Instead, the language appears to indicate BOTH must be purchased to be punishable by law. And even then, the crime is classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, rather than as a Class H Felony, as are other punishments for fraud under North Carolina law. This makes no sense at all.
I most strongly urge our legislators to reconsider this language under (d1). It should be altered to read as follows: Any person who sells or attempts to sell, or purchases or agrees to purchase, a completed application for absentee ballot or an absentee ballot, shall be guilty of a Class H felony.
Willful commission of voter fraud is fraud, and should be punished as such. Effectively extending tough penalties to all forms of absentee ballot voter fraud will help officials to reduce the incidence of voter fraud in our state.
Chairman, Lee County GOP
Tel. (919) 770-4783