A demand from the U.S. Department of Justice for data on North Carolina voters has so far gone unanswered by state officials, despite a deadline to produce the records that passed this week. State Board of Elections General Counsel Josh Lawson said neither his office nor any of the county elections boards have provided any documents in response to subpoenas from the office of U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon. The subpoenas were originally issued in September and demanded eight years’ worth of data on voters statewide, including five years of data and executed ballots from voters in 44 counties, as part of a grand jury investigation involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Complying would have required state and local boards, as well as the state Division of Motor Vehicles, to hand over millions of records on the state’s registered voters just six weeks before the November election. Mounting concern over the demand prompted Justice Department attorneys days later to delay the production deadline until Jan. 14, clarify they wanted only redacted documents and offer to scale back the request.
The back-and-forth over the subpoenas comes amid an ongoing state investigation into absentee ballot irregularities in the 9th Congressional District that prompted North Carolina election officials to postpone the certification of the 2018 race. Investigators with the state elections board raised concerns about those irregularities with federal officials several times in 2018 after noticing patterns that prompted suspicions in past elections, but it’s unclear how Higdon’s office responded.
That investigation came up Tuesday in Washington, D.C., during the confirmation hearing of William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, noting the possibility that the Justice Department may have “failed to take action,” asked Barr how he would avoid such failures in the future.