Seventeen of 18 challenges to the status of Wake County voters were dismissed in a Board of Elections hearing Tuesday, prompting the challenger to walk out halfway through the meeting.
Jay DeLancy, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project, left after Wake County Board of Elections members dismissed challenge No. 7 of 15. During discussion of the challenge, board members indicated the dismissal was based on statutes that require them to assume the voter is legal unless the challenger proves otherwise.
DeLancy said nothing, instead packing up his items and letting the door slam on his way out.
Later, DeLancy said he was trying to send a message. To him, it was clear the board had pre-determined their actions.
“I could not believe it with they denied that one … They were going to keep these people on the rolls any way they could even if they had voted after stating they were non-citizens. At that point, staying there was a waste of time.”
How We Got Here
DeLancy originally filed about 550 challenges to Wake County voters, based on information they provided to the court system stating they are not U.S. citizens and yet were also registered to vote. Only legal U.S. citizens are allowed to vote.
At a June 26 preliminary hearing for those 550 challenges, Wake County Clerk of Court Lorrin Freeman testified that those people had signed documents affirming their lack of citizenship and therefore could not qualify for jury duty.
Members rejected most of the challenges based on testimony from Veronica Degraffenreid of the State Board of Elections, who ascertained from DMV records that most held driver’s licenses. People must provide proof of residency, name, age and Social Security number to obtain a license.
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.”
Of those, three were not among DeLancy’s challenges and therefore could not be part of Tuesday’s hearing.
The Full Hearing
Wake Elections Director Cherie Poucher sent letters to the 18 remaining challenged voters in an effort to determine whether they are citizens. The letter asked for proof of citizenship or asked the resident to return form requesting removal from the voter rolls.
Of the 18, seven returned proof of naturalization. None had voted prior to becoming citizens and all had become citizens after the jury summons.
Three returned the form stating they were not citizens and requesting to be removed from the rolls. Five are listed as “inactive,” which means if they do not contact the Board of Elections or vote in the next two federal elections, they will be removed from voter rolls as part of regular list maintenance.
Poucher said the final three mailings had been returned as “undeliverable” by the post office. Two of those have each voted once.
Unlike the preliminary hearing, neither DeLancy nor the board called any witnesses to testify. DeLancy said he thought evidence presented in the preliminary hearing would be considered.
“I felt one government agency testifying they were not citizens was enough,” he told board members.
He later told the Record that because both the DMV and Clerk of Court indicated these were not citizens, it seemed he had provided enough proof.
“It’s frustrating,” he said.” I’ve decided I’d do whatever they want to do. There’s nothing I can do about their process because I’m not a lawyer and I can’t afford a lawyer and it takes a lawyer now to do the basic duty of watching the voter roll.”
Poucher later said it’s not uncommon to have non-citizen residents come in with a voter registration card, confused about the process.
“Many people that are not citizens – I shouldn’t say many – do not understand the difference between a green card or a visa and voting,” Poucher said. “That’s going to have to be an educational process for I think everyone to explain that citizenship is different than holding a work card or having a visa.”
Board of Elections Chair Aida Doss Havel suggested members consider turning over evidence on some of the voters to the district attorney for possible prosecution. Member Josh Howard, who was not present, expressed his preference for doing so in a letter to board members.
Members decided to discuss that idea in another meeting when Howard could be present.
DeLancy, who missed that part of the discussion, told the Record possible prosecution is “some consolation.”
Although his mission is to make sure the voter rolls are clean, DeLancy said he is not sure where he will go from here. Meanwhile, he plans to attend a hearing next week on his previously filed challenges to 386 deceased voters in Wake County.
The preliminary hearing will take place during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 9 a.m. The meeting will take place at the Wake County Commission chambers in room 700 of the courthouse.
“I don’t plan to walk out of that one,” DeLancy said.