APR 25, 2016 (Raleigh) — A law designed to help election officials locate and remove non-citizens from the voter rolls, was announced as the top legislation the Voter Integrity Project will pursue during this year’s “short” Legislative session, which begins Monday, but the bill faces stiff opposition from a powerful Republican state senator.
“We were surprised that people would oppose any law that helps election officials keep dead people, felons and non-citizens off the rolls,” said Jay DeLancy, Director of the Voter Integrity Project, “but certain factions inside our government have fought us in this area for more than four years and it’s time to change this law.”
The legislation, called “Record of Excusals from Jury Duty,” orHouse Bill 100, was sponsored by Representatives George Cleveland and Michael Speciale, during the 2015-2016 session to require the state’s 100 Clerks of Court to share their disqualification records with their local election offices whenever the reason for the disqualification impacts the voter rolls.
“For example, some people are called for jury duty years after they moved out of the county and that automatically disqualifies them from serving,” DeLancy said. “In a competent county, the courts would automatically tell the election office when such people have moved away, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anywhere in North Carolina and this law would help fix it.”
The issue first emerged in May 2012, when the newly-formed Voter Integrity Project challenged 553 registered voters who had evaded jury duty by claiming they were not US citizens. The group lost their challenges in what DeLancy called, “a kangaroo court setting,” over the issue of hearsay evidence, but the group lacked the resources to appeal the case. (See details here.) Without ever admitting any of VIP’s work was valid, the Wake County Board of Election later removed 11 of the voters from the rolls and made criminal referrals to ICE.
The ordeal caught the attention of NC State Representative, George Cleveland, who introduced the 2013-2014 session version, as HB 281. Which cleared the House by a stunning 110 to 4 vote, only to be stymied by the Senate Rules Committee Chairman, Tom Apodaca, who promised DeLancy he would “take it up in the short session.”
Sen Apodaca reneged on his promise and the bill died at the end of the session, so Rep Cleveland reintroduced the bill as his first legislation during the 2015-2016 session.
“Representative Cleveland is a 25-year Marine veteran who doesn’t know the meaning of the word, quit,” said DeLancy. “Again, the bill sailed through the House and through a Judiciary Committee and was headed for a full Senate vote until Sen Apodaca blocked it again, claiming the Clerks don’t like it.”
A similar law, § 163-82.14.(b), has been on the books for quite a while that requires the Bureau of Vital Records to share its death records with the Board of Elections and this has helped election offices prevent “dead voting” in North Carolina.
“HB 100 would extend that interagency cooperation from vital records to the courts,” said DeLancy. “In a perfect world, we’d also like to see the Registrar of Deeds telling election officials whenever somebody sells their home, but for now, we just want Sen Apodaca to let the full Senate vote on this bill.”