For years, “voter fraud” has been a conservative rallying cry, used to justify ever more demanding voter identification and registration requirements. During the post-election face-off between Republican incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper, the Democratic governor-elect, Republican claims of voter fraud were put to the test. With few exceptions, they rather dramatically failed. On election night, Cooper led by more than 4,900 votes out of more than 4.5 million cast. Thousands of absentee and provisional ballots remained to be counted. Yet rather than let the counting process naturally play out, McCrory launched a series of baseless fraud allegations against voters. The North Carolina Republican Party churned out daily warnings of “dead voters,” “double voting,” “absentee ballot mills” and “absentee ballot harvesting.” Sounded awful. The only problem: For the most part, it wasn’t true. Let’s start with “dead voters.” Sounds bad and conjures images of ballots fraudulently cast in the name of the deceased. Except that’s not what this was about. This allegation was actually about voters who were alive at the time they voted but had died before Nov. 8. But because they were not alive on Election Day, these votes could be challenged and disallowed. We can debate that approach, but it hardly constitutes fraud.
McCrory’s allegations of double voting fared no better. McCrory accused named individuals of voting twice (once in North Carolina and once in another state). But all the campaign could produce to support the allegations were computer printouts from a faulty database, rife with errors and relying only on a name and date-of-birth match, which is notoriously unreliable. One of the alleged double voters was a 101-year old World War II veteran who lived in a nursing home. Even Republican-dominated county election boards refused to rely on such weak “evidence” to disenfranchise voters.
Absentee ballot mills and absentee ballot harvesting were perhaps the most pernicious of the claims of fraud. Both centered on a rural county that McCrory won but where local candidates from both parties alleged that the other side had improperly helped absentee voters complete their ballots. In many rural African American communities, voters who feel intimidated when voting in person choose instead to vote by absentee ballot. Under North Carolina law, that’s appropriate and requires two witnesses to sign the absentee-ballot envelope.