When a group of voting rights advocates notified the state Department of Health and Human Services recently that North Carolina may not be living up to federal requirements that social services agencies help their clients register to vote, a spokeswoman indicated the department was surprised. “This administration has always supported increasing voter registration and will fully review any alleged variance along with our processes to determine if the Department needs to revise its procedures,” Alexandra Lefebvre, a DHHS press assistant, emailed Friday in response to both verbal and emailed requests for comment. “Given the gravity of this issue, we wish these activist organizations had approached the Department sooner when they first had concerns about the registration process.” That profession of surprise is a much different response than WRAL News received from the North Carolina State Board of Elections on Friday, where officials indicated that they were not only aware of the problem but said they had been prodding DHHS for years to address the issue.
In response to a public records request by WRAL News, the State Board of Elections provided more than 60 emails and calendar entries dating to 2012 indicating there have been meetings and emails exchanged between DHHS’ Division of Social Services and elections officials that focused on the problem.
One of those emails includes a request for help from DHHS to the State Board of Elections in responding to a records request by Demos, one of the voting rights advocacy groups that put North Carolina on notice Friday that the state may be out of compliance with the 1990s-era National Voter Registration Act.