New evidence emerges in NC "voter fraud" caper
Drip by drip, more evidence is emerging about the great North Carolina "voter fraud" scandal. To recap the story so far: on June 5, the N.C. State Auditor's office sent an 11th-hour email to the N.C. senate, warning that they had "sensitive information" about voting problems that should cause the legislature to think twice about passing same-day voter registration at early voting sites.
So far, the auditor's office has been less than forthcoming about two items:
(1) The role of Chris Mears, an auditor's office staffer who as late as spring 2006 was Political Director of the NC Republican Party, where he was involved in his own voting scandal; and,
(2) How much the auditor's cries of "voter fraud" were linked to the same-day registration bill (Note: Reader B writes to clarify an item from our previous post: the auditor's office has never denied that they sought to intervene on the election bill; they've just claimed they did not intend to influence the outcome , for what it's worth).
The Raleigh News & Observer's "Under the Dome" blog now has more information that both proves Mears' direct involvement, and confirms the auditor's intent was to "impact" the fate of election reform by raising the specter of "voter fraud." Ryan Teague Beckwith reports:
Auditor Les Merritt's spokesman played a key role in briefly halting a voting bill, according to e-mails received under a public records request.
At 10:12 a.m. on June 5, Chris Mears forwarded a Dome item on a bill to allow North Carolinians to register to vote the weekend before an election to Merritt, Chief Deputy Kris Bailey, Executive Assistant James Forte and legal counsel Tim Hoegemeyer.
"If we want to have an impact on voter registration legislation, we should get Sen. Berger information sooner rather than later," he wrote. "This is a significant opportunity to safeguard our democracy that I don't think we should pass-up."
Merritt agreed, saying that "time will pass us by." In a reply sent at 10:17, he wrote, "We may need to speak even if our audit is not complete."
At 2:34 p.m., Merritt e-mailed Sen. Dan Clodfelter to ask him to pull the bill. Senate leaders agreed, but they put the bill back up for a vote after a hearing with Merritt. It passed and is now back in the House.
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.