Raleigh, N.C. — Four sitting state lawmakers are likely among the more than 35,000 North Carolina voters who share a first name, last name and birthday with an individual registered to vote in another state.
"I think they're innocent," said Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina, as he tried to make a point about what he called "hysteria" over voter fraud that has been the backdrop for several new election laws.
Rather than implicate the lawmakers in voter fraud, Hall said, the matches indicate the difficulties of drawing conclusions about the real world simply from database matches.
Hall said that, in the case of the lawmakers, the matches were likely the results of old voter registrations that were never rescinded when they moved to North Carolina. Other possibilities include people who do, in fact, share the same first and last name and birthday. For example, Hall said he shares all three points of identifying information with a voter in Ohio.
"He happens to be a Republican and votes very regularly," Hall said.
During an April legislative hearing, lawmakers heard from state elections officials that 35,570 voters in North Carolina who voted in 2012 had first names, last names and dates of birth that matched those of voters who voted in other states in 2012.
Backers of a new voter identification law took that revelation as evidence of widespread voter fraud.
"This is proof positive that voter fraud has in fact occurred." Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said at the time. "For years, all of us have known anecdotally of different types of voter fraud."
But Hall said lawmakers should be more cautious because they could be indicting themselves in the process. He said the Kansas-based crosscheck program was notorious for producing false positives.
Of more concern, he said, were 765 registered North Carolina voters who appear to match registered voters in other states on their first names, last names, dates of birth and the final four digits of their Social Security numbers, although there could be explanations for many of those too.
Rep. Charles Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, was among the four lawmakers Hall pointed to on Monday. Rather than agreeing with Hall that the matches indicated less of a need for strict new voter ID laws, Jeter said they pointed to problems within the election system.
Jeter acknowledged there could be, as in his case, innocent reasons why people showed up as registered in two states.
"The argument from some of my colleagues is there are probably nefariousness reasons as well," he said.
Jeter said that he had been a registered voter in his home state of South Carolina before moving to North Carolina. The fact that he could be shown as an active voter in both places "is a primary example of why there needs to be voter ID."
Hall said he showed the need for more investment in poll-worker training and voter data maintenance.
The three other lawmakers identified as having exact matches on first and last names as well as birthdays were Sen. Ronald Rabin, R-Harnett, Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, and Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake.
Nine other lawmakers had individuals in others states where they matched on first name and last name and were only one day off with regards to birthday.
"This is the problem with using massive sets of data to draw conclusions about voter fraud," Hall said.