Facebook joke brings allegations of voter fraud
Posted November 5, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — File this under jokes that get out of hand.
Jim Turner, of Pine Knoll Shores, thought he was posting a private joke to his daughter's Facebook page on Friday. In it, he jokingly claimed to have voted "once in Beaufort, once in Henderson, twice in Emerald Isle" and vowed to vote again on Election Day.
An investigator with the state Board of Elections spoke with Turner, who is "69 and not computer savvy." The investigator went on to report, "The posting was meant as a joke for his daughter only. He seems very distraught and has retained an attorney to handle the media. He has talked with the Pine Knoll Shores police chief due to threats."
A quick check of early voting data maintained by the state Board of Elections shows that Turner hasn't voted yet in his home town. It's unclear how he might have endeavored to vote in other locations, but state board data doesn't seem to provide any evidence that he has voted elsewhere, including Durham.
On his own Facebook page, Turner posted Friday:
I posted a comment to Jami's page earlier today and it now lives in cybersomewhere. I can't seem to get with the whole facebook thing. I made bold comment on the future of my grandchildren under a Romney presidency and now it is gone. I think my comments were deleted as part of a conspiracy inspired by some who see our national glass as half empty.
According to his Facebook profile, Turner retired to the coast from Durham in 2001.
According to blog posts, news reports and official investigators, Turner's post has sparked out-sized attention. People have been writing to the town, and local and state boards of election to demand an investigation.
Nobody answered the phone at Turner's home and his voice mailbox was full.
On Monday, WITN, an NBC affiliate, reported that Turner's daughter, Jami Turner told the station that her parents had received threats but planned to vote on Election Day.
Reached via Facebook, Ms. Turner told WRAL-TV, "The Turner family has no comment. I spoke with a friend who works at WITN channel 7 as a friend. She quoted me without permission and I have asked them to remove the story. When it becomes appropriate to comment, we will."
Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones returned a phone call on behalf of the town police chief. He confirmed that there had been reports of some threats against Mr. Turner and said that the town does plan to provide some extra security around polling places on Election Day.
"He made an inappropriate comment on a social media page. He thought it was private," Jones said. "It was a joke between him and his daughter that went viral."
Asked if he thought there was any actual voter fraud related to this situation, Jones said,"There's no evidence that there's any voter fraud or anything such."
According to the North Carolina Board of Elections, at least one other voter has used Facebook to claim, as a joke, to have voted multiple times. That assertion does not appear to be credible either.
Update: Mr. Turner sent a statement to reporters late Monday afternoon. It recounted many of the details in the post above and ads:
I write a monthly Column for the Pine Knoll Shores Shoreline where my neighbors here on the coast have become very familiar with my sarcastic take on life. Neither of these posts would have been an issue if the people who know me and my “way with words” were the only people who read them.
Unfortunately that was not the case. The post, meant as a private joke, clearly was not private and was quickly picked up by the world of Blogosphere. It has snowballed and from what I understand has reached more than 4 million hits since Friday.
I have not voted in this year’s election. I will cast my one vote on Election Day. I have committed no fraud in this election or otherwise. What I am guilty of is not understanding the power of the internet. My daughter says 69 year old men without basic computer knowledge should not play on Facebook. She’s right!
My name, phone number, address, and even pictures of my grandchildren have been spread over various webpages. I have received threatening phone calls and many calls urging me to turn myself in.
I have met with the Chief of the Pine Knoll Shores Police, spoken by phone with the State Board of Elections, and I have provided a statement to the Attorney General. My concern now turns not to the controversy but to the safety of my family.