My neighbor Lucia Foster was surprised when I emailed her on November 18. “Are you aware,” I asked, “that your name is on one of the election protest petitions?” Foster was raised to take voting seriously. She grew up in both Bangkok, Thailand, where her parents worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill. “I was aware, from a young age, of how government works,” she says. “And I saw the impact of elections on foreign aid overseas.” Now 41, Foster has voted her entire adult life—she’s a Democrat—and this year moved her registration to Durham, North Carolina. When she’s not working as a clinical-trials specialist, she teaches drama at a theater company with a social-justice bent.Now, to her befuddlement, Foster was seeing her name on a list of suspicious voters. Supporters of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican seeking a second term, had launched an all-out campaign to question the legitimacy of a contest that he appeared to be losing to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. As of Thursday evening, Cooper’s lead was 10,267 votes out of 4.6 million cast, though no winner has been declared.
Questioning election integrity has been big news nationally, of course: Donald Trump has been espousing false claims of rampant voter fraud and even charging, without evidence, that “millions of people” voted illegally in the presidential race. This is a recurrent trope here in North Carolina, which has been a laboratory for attacks on voting rights. What happened to my neighbor shows how the fraud narrative plays out on the ground—and it may be a preview of what voters around the country can expect under President Trump.
Part of the North Carolina GOP’s strategy has been disputing the honesty of individual voters, including two who live on my street. John Posthill, a volunteer for the McCrory campaign, filed four petitions in Durham alleging various irregularities. One petition claimed that 17 Durhamites, including Foster, were “known to have voted in multiple states,” which in North Carolina would be a felony. “I certainly did not vote in more than one state,” Foster wrote back to me. (Election officials in Kent County, Maryland, where she used to live, confirm that she did not vote there during the general election.)