CORRECTION APPENDED: The original version of this article misspelled Jay DeLancy’s name.
In a preliminary hearing Tuesday members of the Wake County Board of Elections dismissed the challenges to more than 500 voter registrations while agreeing to further investigate 18 of them.
Jay DeLancy, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project, submitted 550 official challenges to the status of Wake County registered voters.
Imitating actions by voter groups in other states, DeLancy collected a list of 6,000 names of people who indicated to the court system they were ineligible to serve as members of a jury because they are not U.S. citizens. After some analysis, DeLancy reduced that list to 1,000 names and then checked those against a list of Wake County’s registered voters. He found about 550 names on both lists.
Only legal U.S. citizens are allowed to vote.
“The nature of this evidence is that for every person who got out of jury duty through this process … the challenge, the person actually signed a statement under threat of perjury and stated on a statement that they are not U.S. citizens,” DeLancy told the three-member Elections Board. “They’re either committing perjury of the courts … or they committed perjury of the electoral system.”
Board members said their goal in a preliminary hearing is to determine whether enough evidence was presented to justify a full hearing about the challenges.
Members listened to testimony from several people, including a member of the State Board of Elections, the assistant director of the Wake Board of Elections and Wake County Clerk of Court Lorrin Freeman.
Freeman explained that those who wish to excuse themselves from jury duty must check a box indicating the reason and sign the form. One of the boxes allows a person to claim ineligibility because he or she is not a U.S. citizen. The person must attach a copy of his or her green card to prove ineligibility.
If a person follows this procedure, an automatic letter is mailed to confirm he or she is excused from duty and the person is removed from the master list of potential jurors.
Members rejected most of the challenges based on testimony from Veronica Degraffenreid of the State Board of Elections. Degraffenreid said after hearing about DeLancy’s investigation, she began her own, starting with a list of 813 names. She gave that list to the DMV for cross reference, based on the fact that one must provide proof of residency, name, age and Social Security number to obtain a license.
According to the DMV records, most people on the list had obtained a regular driver’s license. Some others were identified as having a “legal presence” license, which gives non-citizens with legal rights to be in the U.S. the right to drive while here.
Degraffenreid also took DeLancy’s list and found some names not on her list. She ran the same checks and came up with a final count of 21 people “who have not responded to inquiry and have legal presence license or no information at DMV at all.”
“This does not definitively assert that these voters are not U.S. citizens,” Degraffenreid said. “More evidence may be needed.”
DeLancy questions whether the DMV is an accurate barometer for citizenship. Those applying for North Carolina driver’s licenses were not required to provide such proof until the 2006 Technical Corrections Act.
“I didn’t think to summon anyone from the DMV. I’m not a lawyer,” DeLancy said after the hearing. “The first thing I want to do is find out from the DMV how accurate … if they think someone is not a [legal presence license holder], does that prove they are a citizen, yes or no? We may have to go through the challenge again.”
Of the 21, three are not listed among the challenges presented by DeLancy. Because they are not part of the challenge, the board cannot include them in a future hearing. Members voted to deal with those three administratively, which means Wake Elections Director Cherie Poucher will follow up on those three to confirm legal status and present the results of her investigation to the board later.
Board members also voted to send the information to the district attorney’s office for investigation.
“People lie to get out of jury duty,” said Elections Board Member Josh Howard. “If they’re lying to get out of jury duty, that’s not necessarily before this board. I recognize there may be limitations from a persecutor’s standpoint … [they] may not wish to pursue it.”
Howard referred to Freeman’s earlier testimony. She said once the information is entered into the court system, the paper records indicating a person is not a U.S. citizen are destroyed. This is in accordance with the state’s standard record-keeping procedures.
The full hearing on the list of 18 people will take place at 9 a.m. Aug. 21 at a location yet to be determined. Letters will be sent to those people alerting them of the hearing. If those people try to vote in the July 17 secondary primary election, a challenge would take place at the precinct and be presided over by the precinct judge.