Local News

Alleged Department of Justice impersonator tried to persuade Chapel Hill voters

Posted June 2, 2016

— A man who told Orange County voters that he was with the U.S. Department of Justice drew the attention of the federal government after volunteers reported the alleged impersonator to authorities.

Volunteers with the Orange County Democratic Party said the incident happened at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Seymour Senior Center in Chapel Hill, which serves as an early voting site.

Democratic Party chairman Matt Hughes said the man, who identified himself as William Patel, told volunteers that he worked for the Department of Justice and was investigating voter suppression and fraud.

Volunteers said the man refused to show identification proving he worked for the federal government and that he stayed at the site for about an hour talking to volunteers and voters.

“He made some very interesting comments, such as the fact that he was a member of the NRA, that he held some sort of Libertarian ideology, also that he had a disdain for what he called outside agitators,” Hughes said.

The Board of Elections director said volunteers reported the man to the site supervisor, who said volunteers told him the man was trying to persuade voters who to select on the ballot. Since the man remained outside a 50-foot boundary of the voting site, he did not break any of Board of Election rules, however.

“He did not try to enter the facilities to vote, didn’t try to tamper with any election equipment,” Hughes said. “Still, it was an uncomfortable situation for the voters.”

Hughes said the man’s actions could be chilling for voters, especially since some people are already on edge about changing voter ID laws in the state.

“He said he was there to monitor for voter suppression, but we feel as though his presence there was quite the opposite and could have intimidated voters,” Hughes said.

Hughes said he reported the incident to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and it was then referred to FBI officials, who said it’s too soon to determine whether the incident violated any federal or state laws.


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