An investigation by the N.C. Board of Elections has found that 508 voters who cast ballots last November weren’t eligible to vote – and the vast majority of them were felons serving active sentences.
The State Board of Elections released the audit report Friday in response to public records requests and a request from members of Congress. The report says that 441 voters appear to have been serving active felony sentences on Election Day – many of them on probation. Convicted felons can vote in North Carolina only after completing their sentences, including any probation and parole.
In addition, the investigation found 41 non-citizens who cast ballots, 24 voters who voted twice and two people who falsely voting using the name of a family member who’d recently died.
“It is important to recognize that suspected cases of ineligible voters casting ballots and/or committing fraud represent a tiny fraction” of the 4.8 million voters who participated, the report says.
The improper votes identified in the report won’t be removed from last year’s official vote tallies, but the report says that “no races – statewide or local – would have had a different outcome than the one already certified” if the improper votes were removed.
The agency stresses that the incidents documented in the report aren’t necessarily cases of voter fraud, because there may not be evidence the voters knew they were committing a crime. The findings in the report have been provided to district attorneys, and it will be up to prosecutors to decide if the ineligible voters will face criminal charges.
“All numbers are subject to change based on ultimate investigative findings,” the report says.
Prosecutors in Catawba County have already decided not to charge a woman who impersonated her dead mother at the polls.
That woman – whose name has been redacted in the report – told investigators in an email that her 89-year-old mother was a “tremendous Donald Trump fan” who died on Oct. 26 before she could vote for her preferred presidential candidate.
The day before she died, she told her daughter “if anything happens, you have my power of attorney and you be sure to vote for Donald Trump for me,” the daughter said in the email. The daughter then went to a polling place and used her mother’s name to cast a ballot.
“Please understand that my actions were in no way intended to be fraudulent but were done during my grief and an effort to honor my mother’s last request,” the daughter told investigators in an email.
A letter from the district attorney’s office in Catawba County, included in the audit report, said prosecutors will not charge the woman because she believed the vote “was not a fraudulent act,” she did not have a prior criminal record, and the mother was alive during part of the absentee voting period.
The only other case of voter impersonation that the audit found involved a similar situation in which a wife signed an absentee ballot using the name of her husband, who had just died after filling out a ballot that was rejected because it was incomplete.
With the overwhelming majority of improper votes in the audit coming from active felons, state election officials say they’ll improve records checks designed to ensure active felons don’t get registered to vote.
They’ll also add more education efforts to make sure active felons know that their right to vote isn’t restored until their sentence is complete. Many of the ineligible voters contacted in the investigation said they thought they were able to vote after leaving prison.
Voter registration forms will now include a box that voters must check to state they have completed any felony sentence they received.
The investigation’s review of immigration records found 41 voters who admitted to investigators that they are not U.S. citizens. At the time of the report, 61 additional suspected non-citizens had not responded to investigators’ request to provide documentation proving their citizenship. All are legal residents with green cards.