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@NCCapitol

New election ordered in Pembroke

Posted December 20, 2013

— Voting and administrative irregularities were so widespread in the Town of Pembroke's fall elections that a new election must be held in 2014, the State Board of Elections ruled Friday.

Pembroke voters went to the polls in November to select two council members for full four-year terms and fill a third seat left vacant when another council member died this year.

During a two-hour hearing Friday at the State Board of Elections, members sorted through appeals from the Robeson County Board of Elections that included allegations of ineligible voters, questionable administrative processes and a possible violation of the state's open meetings law. 

The board reviewed evidence that at least two candidates helped bring people to the town's early voting location who were ineligible to vote. Some of those people, including several young men who came from out of state to attend a basketball program, managed to cast ballots because they were mistakenly registered during one-stop absentee voting.  

"Because of the taint, the multiple allegations in this matter, unless this board orders a new election, the will of the people won't be known," said Joshua Malcolm, a state board member who lives in Pembroke. 

The state board also referred all of the material they gathered Friday to the local district attorney for a possible criminal investigation.

A new date for the town election has not been set, but it likely won't be before the first week of March.

Until winners of the fall elections are certified and take their oath of office, the prior members of the town council will remain in office. 

State board members on Friday picked through a thorny set of facts and voluminous filings that included transcripts of two local board hearings and complaints filed by candidates for the council.

Incumbent Councilman Allen Dial and challenger Theresa Locklear are tied for one of the full council terms, with 300 votes each. The local board of elections found a tie after two formal counts.

During Friday's hearing, Dial alleged that he had identified at least eight voters who should not have been allowed to cast their ballots. Those young men were part of a group of 20 that came in during the one-stop absentee voting period. It later came to light the men were part of a basketball program that prepares players for college.

However, they did not provide identification needed under state and federal law to establish they were residents of the town. 

Those initial eight members of what the state board referred to as the "basketball team" were allowed to register using a lease as their documentation. Local election officials noticed the mistake after registering them and then challenged the men who had driven them to the election site.

The remaining team members did not try to vote. However, those eight had already cast their ballots. 

The board also reviewed evidence that Dial himself had driven a van full of ineligible voters to the early voting site. A transcript of a lower board hearing showed he was accused of coaching those people on how to present their residency.

Dial acknowledged driving the people but said he didn't know they were ineligible at the time.

The 2013 municipal elections are likely the last elections for which North Carolina voters would be able to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day. The General Assembly outlawed the practice as part of a law that goes into effect in 2014, but it is being challenged in court.

Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said one-stop voting was a major cause of problems during the 2013 election, as well as prior elections.

"There's been a playbook that was written in 2005 (when one-stop voting first started), and every election since someone else seems to get a hold of it," Stone said.  

During local hearings over the matter, discussions seemed to become heated. At one point, the local board's attorney asked that the board go into closed session. But neither he nor local board members stated an allowable reason, according to the local transcript. That error alone, Malcolm said, could call into question the administrative process used to hear election complaints and lead to other courts overturning some decisions. 

State board member Rhonda Amoroso worried that a new election could be costly for the town. Stone said the cost would probably be somewhere between $3,000 and $10,000.

22 Comments

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  • jhdadiva Dec 30, 2013

    I am truly dismayed at the latest news about the Tribal elections. This is a slap in the face to all Lumbees who are deserving of Federal recognition. Do not think for one minute that the powers that be are not looking at this as reasons to deny our right to be recognized. If, indeed true, shame to all involved. It's time for a decent, tribe first individual to step up and carry the banner for our people.

  • junkmail5 Dec 26, 2013

    Hmmm and you wonder why we are stuck with this so called president....
    gibbman67

    because over 51% of americans voted for him.

    twice.

    The first president to win twice by that margin since Eisenhower by the way.

  • gibbman67 Dec 25, 2013

    Hmmm and you wonder why we are stuck with this so called president....

  • junkmail5 Dec 24, 2013

    All you folks who say there is NO voter fraud. Take note. -Danny22

    I did.

    I noticed that new ID laws WOULD NOT HAVE PREVENTED THIS.

    You know, like I explained in detail yesterday.

    Did you miss it?

  • Danny22 Dec 24, 2013

    All you folks who say there is NO voter fraud. Take note. Another reason why registration and voting should not occur on the same day. Sounds like several yrs back when the busloads of nursing home residents showed up with their "helpers."

  • junkmail5 Dec 23, 2013

    Uh, did all you "see? this is proof of fraud" folks actually READ THE STORY?

    They were ALREADY REQUIRED to show ID.

    They were ASKED for ID.

    They PROVIDED ID.

    The problem is the people doing the check accepted improper ID...and thus registered them to vote.

    So this is explicitly NOT an example of "the kind of fraud you get without voter ID"

    Since they HAD VOTER ID required to register.

    The problem is the people CHECKING the ID not doing their jobs properly and accepting ID they should not have under the EXISTING LAW.

    So no- this is NOT an example of "Why we need new ID laws"

    It's an example of why the CURRENT ones are just fine if you ACTUALLY ENFORCE THEM, and new ones are totally useless if you're NOT going to properly enforce existing ones.

  • lwe1967 Dec 21, 2013

    Some time back one of the Dems said that they didn't need picture IDs in NC because there was no voter irregularities. Really, what do you call this? It is serious when an election has to be done over because of the irregularities stated by the State Election Board. Tell the ACLU and the rest who saying that picture IDs or State IDs are to get stuffed. Anyone who does not have one of the approved identifications, does not vote period!

  • Krimson Dec 21, 2013

    "Some of those people, including several young men who came from out of state to attend a basketball program, managed to cast ballots because they were mistakenly registered during one-stop absentee voting."

    The basketball team should have been given provisional ballots, to be counted, once their registrations were verified.

    If Pembroke fails to meet their obligation to properly register potential voters, what makes us think they'll properly verify a voter's picture ID???

  • jamesjohnson391 Dec 20, 2013

    But, but, but...there is no voter fraud in NC.

  • soapbox Dec 20, 2013

    "I thought the argument was that there wasn't enough fraud to warrant a voter ID now it's there are enough current laws to catch it? How about preventing it so we don't have the expense of another election?" - BigBrokeBill

    Eight people is hardly widespread voter fraud. Unless you live in a small town where 8 votes are enough to make a huge difference. In which case, you do as they have done and fix it.

    The only reason they need a whole new election is because there are so many different allegations including "administrative irregularities." So many allegations that the state board thinks it may warrant "criminal investigation."

    The reelection is not due to improper ID nor would it be solved by "proper" voter ID. A simple recount would take care of that.

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