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Election chief: Scams, misbehavior mark 2012

Posted October 29, 2012 5:44 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2012 7:46 p.m. EDT

— The 2012 election is setting a new record for voter misinformation and misbehavior at polling places, according to State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett.

"I have heard more complaints, more misinformation and more what I call intimidation or suppression than any time during my tenure," Bartlett said.

Bartlett's office sent a memo to county election officials Monday, warning them about reports of aggressive or illegal electioneering at the polls, as well as a list of voter misinformation schemes making the rounds statewide.

"It seems like it’s getting worse in this last week leading up to the election," he said. "Some of this stuff may not be against the law, but it certainly makes you scratch your head." 

Misbehavior at the polls

At voting sites, candidate or party supporters can only campaign, or "electioneer," outside a 50-foot buffer zone around the entrance. 

According to the memo, there have been numerous reports of violations of that state law, including voters being approached in their cars as they wait for curbside voting and some people even moving the markers for the buffer zones.

Bartlett said some supporters have been directing "profanity and aggressive language" at opposing supporters. The behavior has resulted in at least one injury – a Wake County poll worker required emergency medical assistance after trying to keep an electioneer out of a buffer zone this weekend.    

The memo warns local officials to "enforce peace and good order" at voting sites. 

“It seems like civility is not on the forefront for some of these folks," Bartlett said. "We need to make sure they do not do anything to the voter or the precinct official.”

Misinformation tactics 

The memo also warns county officials about a list of reported misinformation schemes.

Some voters are being told they can vote by phone or online. Others have been told they must vote Nov. 7, the day after the election.

Some voters were told they must re-register every time they vote or that they can't vote if they have an outstanding ticket. And some canvassers have been misrepresenting themselves as county election workers taking "voter surveys."

Misrepresenting state law as a way to "intimidate or discourage" voters is a felony. 

Bartlett says complaints have come from every area of the state. He said independent or third-party groups appear to be responsible for most of them.

"Some of this is misleading, and some of it is intentional confusion," he said. "It’s kind of hard to sort out at the moment because it’s flying from everywhere, and we just don’t have enough hours in the day or people on staff to run it all down."

'Voter shaming'

Some voters in Wake and Johnston Counties have also received flyers that appear to be official election documents, listing neighbors' names and addresses and showing the election years in which they voted. 

"We're sending this mailing to you and your neighbors to publicize who does and does not vote," the flyer says. "After the November 6th election, we intend to mail an updated chart. You and your neighbors will know who voted and who did not." 

Bartlett said state elections officials are trying to figure out whether the mailing breaks any laws. Voters' addresses, party registration, and voting history are a matter of public record, and are available at the State Election Board's website. 

Some voters who received the flyers believe it's an attempt to intimidate or dissuade them from voting. Others believe it may be an attempt to use peer pressure to "shame" voters into turning out. 

Little information is available about the sender of the latest mailing, listed as "Political Consulting Group" of Sanford.  

Bartlett said similar mailings in Mecklenburg and Cumberland Counties have come from Americans for Limited Government, a conservative non-profit with ties to the Koch brothers.