After 9th District fraud, NC elections officials want tighter rules for absentee ballots
In the wake of fraud that has forced a new election in the 9th Congressional District, North Carolina elections officials called Wednesday for tighter rules on how mail-in absentee ballots are requested and submitted.Posted — Updated
Kim Strach, state elections director, asked lawmakers for help to make such fraud more difficult and to punish offenders more severely.
"We think it's important that we send strong messages, and by making those penalties tougher, we hopefully will deter people from actually engaging in these activities," Strach told members of the House Elections and Ethics Law Committee.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said she expects more charges – and possibly more defendants – after she reviews the findings of the State Board of Elections hearing.
Strach noted that possessing someone else's ballot is one of only two felony offenses related to absentee voting – a nursing home employee assisting residents voting is the other – but it's the lowest-level felony in North Carolina. All other offenses, such as falsely witnessing a ballot, are misdemeanors, she said.
Measures that could deter absentee ballot fraud, Strach said, include the following:
- Prohibit people from being paid for each absentee ballot request they submit.
The State Board of Elections is already simplifying its absentee voting instructions and trying to educate voters and train county elections workers to reduce the chance of fraud, Strach said.
She also asked lawmakers for more funding so her office can add investigators, expand the data resources staff uses to search for irregularities and increase administrative staff to assist counties.
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