NC GOP fires voter sign-up firm over Florida fraud

Posted October 1, 2012 1:05 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2012 7:04 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Republican Party has fired a company paid to register new voters after fraudulent forms linked to the company were uncovered in Florida.

North Carolina GOP spokesman Rob Lockwood said Monday the party had terminated its relationship with Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting, a private company paid more than $3 million to register voters in at least seven presidential battleground states.

"We take any threat to the voting process very seriously," Lockwood said.

The State Board of Elections is also alerting county elections officials to scrutinize all new voter registrations because of fraud concerns.

So far, six suspect registrations have been found, all in Mecklenburg County, said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state elections board. Five came from Strategic Allied workers, and one was from a Democratic voter registration group, he said.

If there's any evidence of fraud, Bartlett said, the elections board will hand it over for criminal investigation.

The moves come after Florida prosecutors began reviewing more than 100 suspect forms submitted by the company's employees in several counties.

The issue has become political baggage for Republicans, who have championed new laws requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID to combat voter fraud they claimed had been perpetrated by left-leaning groups.

Critics of the new GOP backed voter-ID laws point out that prosecutions for fraud are rare. They suggest the push is more about keeping poor and elderly voters, considered less likely to have a driver's license and more likely to vote Democratic, away from the polls.

Voter ID legislation passed North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature in 2011, but was vetoed by the state's Democratic governor.

Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the North Carolina elections board, said problems sometimes arise with forms collected by people paid to register as many voters as possible.

"If you use volunteers, there's nothing to gain financially by creating fictitious registrations," she said.

Strategic Allied Consulting said in a prepared statement that it and affiliated companies had registered more than 500,000 voters in years of conservative grass-roots campaigns carried out in 40 states.

The company called recent statements by GOP officials "libelous" and claimed that the problems in Florida were caused by a single rogue employee.

"Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law," said Fred Petti, a company attorney.