A new GOP-majority state elections board takes office Wednesday as new details raise deeper questions about $240,000 in campaign contributions funneled to the governor and top Republican lawmakers from the sweepstakes gambling industry. State Board of Elections investigators are reviewing more than 60 donations from sweepstakes company owners – and still unearthing more money – as part of a complaint filed last week that suggests the checks may violate campaign finance laws. A majority of the outgoing elections board wanted to pursue the investigation but took no action on the matter Tuesday at its final meeting, saying the decision should fall to the new board.
The Republican-controlled State Board of Elections Wednesday chose Kim Westbrook Strach, a veteran campaign investigator, to be the elections board director. She will replace Gary Bartlett who had been elections director under the past three Democratic governors. The elections board vote was 3-2 along party lines, with Democrats voting in opposition saying they had not time to examine Strach’s credentials and thought there should be a longer transition for Bartlett. The move came just several days after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory named a new elections board, a move that typically occurs when there is a change in political parties.
Gov. Pat McCrory announced late Friday that he was replacing all members of the State Board of Elections as of Wednesday, just as an investigation into political contributions made to McCrory and other top Republicans’ officeholders’ campaigns is getting underway. Three Republicans, including Winston-Salem lawyer Paul Foley, and two Democrats will replace the current three-Democrat, two-Republican board. The board’s majority represents the governor’s party. The move puts the progress of the board’s investigation into campaign contributions from an indicted sweepstakes software company owner in question. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, last week asked the board to investigate more than 60 campaign contributions totaling more than $230,000. Some of the contributions went to McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger.
North Carolina: Board of Elections data shows fewer voters lack photo ID than first thought | Associated Press
New data from the State Board of Elections show far fewer voters lack photo identification than critics of a voter ID bill suggest. The new information roughly halves the potential number of registered voters without photo ID from the 612,000 in a January report to about 318,000. The detailed figures were provided Tuesday to The Associated Press by North Carolina House Republicans and later confirmed in a draft report from the State Board of Elections. The voter ID bill comes up for debate in the state House this week.
The trailing Democratic Party candidate for lieutenant governor said Monday she won’t seek a statewide recount, admitting that a new tally was unlikely to make up the nearly 6,900 votes she needs. And it would cost North Carolina’s 100 counties at least $1.5 million to recount. “We face the reality that an extended battle would not alter the outcome of this race,” Linda Coleman said at a news conference after conceding the outcome to Republican Dan Forest. “It was a hard-fought, spirited campaign and we have stark differences. But in the end, in a tight race, North Carolinians have chosen Mr. Forest as their next lieutenant governor.” Coleman had until today to demand a recount because her margin with Forest was less than 10,000 votes out of almost 4.4 million cast.
North Carolina: ‘112-year-old voters’ a result of change in data collection, not voter fraud | newsobserver.com
Since early voting started last week in North Carolina, data from the state Board of Elections shows 899 ballots cast by 112-year-old voters. Either a surprising number of people who could have chosen between Calvin Coolidge, John Davis and Robert La Follette in 1924 remain alive and politically-engaged, or something else is going on. A local conservative political blog was the first to suggest that “massive voter fraud” was taking place, and a bandwagon of similar claims have followed. The Examiner, a conservative website, posted a story that has been shared by several thousand people on Facebook and Twitter. State elections director Gary Bartlett said the story spread quickly enough on social media that his phone started ringing during church Sunday and hasn’t let up since – and a glance at the widely-circulated story shows why: “Of these voters, over 70 percent were slated as Democrats, with a diminutive 25 percent counted as Republicans…Obviously there is a problem, one in which voter ID might clearly provide a solution. A thing that only the Democratic Party swears against.” Just one problem: “It’s not voter fraud at all,” Bartlett said.
Cuts to the State Board of Elections could cause inconveniences for voters in the upcoming 2012 election. Many political officials have expressed concern about potential problems voters might face at the polls due to a $1 million cut to the State Board of Election’s budget.
The cut, enacted this summer, coupled with a freeze in federal Help America Vote Act funds means local boards of elections have to make do with less — including the elimination of 14 election officials statewide.
Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said eight of the election officials are technicians, which train county elections workers to improve accuracy, audit voting equipment and provide emergency technical support during elections. The technicians also served as liaisons between the state offices and local boards, he said.
The country’s attention will be on North and South Carolina during next year’s election as Republicans will compete in a hotly contested primary and Democrats try to keep the Southern toehold they gained in 2008.
But the nuts and bolts of those elections — printing ballots, keeping machines in working order, making sure every voter who wants to cast a ballot gets a chance — depend on state agencies where budgets have shrunk dramatically. Some officials and observers now worry about whether everything will run smoothly on election day. “We are looking at a potential train wreck with less money and more complexity in handling the administration of elections,” said Bob Hall, executive director of the nonpartisan Democracy North Carolina.
The North Carolina General Assembly’s decision to cut more than $1 million from the state Board of Elections budget this year could make it harder for regulators to ensure county election operations are prepared for 2012, particularly with machinery.
A bill that would shorten North Carolina’s early voting period would create longer lines at the polls and increase the cost of elections, the executive director of the state elections board said Wednesday. Gary Bartlett’s comments came in a memo shortly after the House narrowly passed the measure that would reduce the current 21/2-week early…