NC elections officials prepared to crack down on misinformation

Posted November 5, 2012 11:46 p.m. EST

— As months of vigorous campaigning comes to a close with Tuesday's elections, state officials said they won't hesitate to call police and pursue criminal charges against anyone who goes overboard on electioneering.

Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, called the 2012 election one of the worst he's ever seen in terms of misinformation spread by political parties and campaigns to discourage voting by opposition supporters.

"There are a lot of just plain outright lies going out to the electorate," Bartlett said Monday.

Someone is calling voters offering free iPhones if they vote Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Others have told voters that any ballots cast at an early voting site won't count.

Such misinformation is considered misdemeanor voter fraud, but Bartlett said problems have gone beyond that.

"We have had one-stop sites where just outside the one-stop areas fights would take place," he said.

The state chapter of the NAACP on Monday called on state and federal leaders to protect voters. The request came after someone spotted an open-air trailer near an early polling site in Goldsboro with President Barack Obama and other elected officials hung in effigy.

"It's important in North Carolina we understand how serious this is," said Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president.

Bartlett said letters have been sent out to all 100 county elections offices, instructing them to police the election lines on Tuesday to ensure voting is smooth and peaceful.

"The worst of us is coming out. They should save their message for the ballot box," he said.