It’s not every day that a Wake County Elections Board hearing is the setting for a temper tantrum.
That’s what happened today when the Voter Integrity Project’s Jay DeLancy snatched his microphone off the board’s table mid-meeting, kicking glass doors open in front of him as he stormed out of the meeting room in the Public Safety Center. He slowed down once he realized news cameras were chasing him.
Earlier this year, DeLancy brought the Wake Elections Board some 550 challenges to voters he says are not legally entitled to vote in the US – proven, he says, by DMV and jury duty records that say they’re not citizens.
Elections board investigators and voting-rights advocates who looked into the allegations say DeLancy used old DMV records and mismatched names, and failed to understand how the county collects data.
Only 18 challenges rose to the level of further investigation. All 18 were dismissed today.
One voter was removed according to state law. Several others requested their own removal. About half supplied evidence of their eligibility to vote. Most of the rest were registered but had never voted.
DeLancy said he’s frustrated. He believes he had sufficient evidence to prove the registered voters are not US citizens, even if the Elections Board disagrees.
He singled out one record - a man with a Hispanic name who voted in 2008, but who told the county he was ineligible for jury duty and did not reply to two letters from the elections board. Had the letters been returned undeliverable to the Elections Board, staff said, that would have been cause to declare the voter ineligible. But the letters weren’t returned – they just weren’t responded to.
According to election laws, those facts aren’t enough to take away someone’s voter registration. Because voting is a constitutional right, the law sides with the voter unless there’s material evidence to prove he or she is ineligible.
DeLancy felt he provided that evidence, but the elections board didn’t want to hear it.
“It’s a sad day when it takes – when our election laws are so complex, that it takes an election law attorney in order for one citizen to walk in and challenge the right of another citizen to vote,” DeLancy said, “They know this citizen is not a US citizen.”
DeLancy said the proceeding made the board “look stupid.”
“It’s a waste of my time to sit in that hearing right now,” he added, clearly angry.“The average voter should be afraid,” he told reporters, “because we have a lot of people who are walking around North Carolina right now who are not citizens and are registered to vote.”
“I fear for our election,” DeLancy added.
Elections board officials said DeLancy hadn’t proven any of his cases. Election watchdog Bob Hall with Democracy NC agreed, chiding DeLancy in front of the cameras.
"It’s very easy to file a sheet of paper here and challenge 500 voters," Hall said to DeLancy. “You’ve made the Board of Elections spend hundreds of hours going through, checking with the DMV to see if there’s evidence undercutting your evidence."
“I just want to you to go through a little more due diligence,” Hall added.
After the meeting, Wake Election Board Chairwoman Aida Doss Havel said the board dismissed all of DeLancy’s challenges “for failure of the challenger to carry his burden of proof.”
Doss Havel said the appearance that even one non-citizen had managed to vote at some point is “an obvious concern.”
“People who are not citizens who register to vote are breaking the law. It is a felony,” Doss Havel said, “and the ones who did do that are being removed from the rolls” by administrative means, as the Board does on a regular basis.
She said she was surprised by DeLancy’s exit. “He was the one who brought the challenges. We had a full hearing on the challenges, and we continued with the hearing after he made the choice to leave.”
“Right now, we rely on voters to state that they are citizens of the United States,” Doss Havel said. “That has always been the way that voters have registered.”
Wake Elections Director Cherie Poucher said she too was “surprised” by DeLancy’s outburst, but was happy about the outcome of the hearing.
“I’m pleased that the people who are citizens were able to present the information to prove that they are citizens,” Poucher said.
“Many of them did feel questioned,” she added. “’How come? Why was I asked to do this?’ So I did have to apologize to them, because they did everything right. They were citizens, they were naturalized, and yet I still had to write to them and say, ‘Your voter registration is being challenged.’”
“But any voter does have the right to challenge,” she added. “It is our responsibility then to follow through."
Poucher said “more educational purpose in voter registration” would be helpful. “Many people from other countries may not realize that if you have a green card or a visa, that in itself does not constitute citizenship. So it’s important for those out registering people to make sure the person registering understands that.”