Local Politics

Auditor: Dead People Voted in N.C. Elections

Posted June 19, 2007 7:17 p.m. EDT

— Despite questions from State Auditor Les Merritt, lawmakers on Tuesday sent a controversial voter registration bill to the House floor for a vote.

House Bill 91 would allow people to register and vote at the same place within three days of an election. Opponents, primarily Republicans, feel it would open up more voter fraud.

Merritt, a Republican, created an awkward situation Tuesday during a meeting of the Select Committee on Government and Election Reform when he released information criticizing the State Board of Elections' oversight of voter registration.

Auditors in Merritt's office looked at voter registration records and found what they believe are the names of hundreds of voters who were supposedly dead at the time they voted.

"We want to eliminate voter fraud," Merritt said. "I want to let you know I don't consider this a partisan issue."

"That's plain not true," elections board member Bob Rauf said of the allegation. "What we're doing is talking about things that are half fact and not necessarily true because the rules aren't understood."

Board members said people sometimes vote early or by absentee ballot and then die before the actual election. The auditors have misinterpreted the voting data, they said.

"We're comfortable with our numbers. We're very, very comfortable," board member Marc Burris said.

The bill was pulled from a House vote on Monday when Merritt first raised his concerns. He said his office would soon issue a final report on the matter.

"It's not my place to really kill the bill or stall it or anything else," he told lawmakers.

Committee members decided to move the proposal forward.

"I believe that this bill is very sound," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, one of the bill's sponsors.