ICE Demands All North Carolina's Voter Ballots. Is That Bad, Or Is It UTTERLY TERRIFYING?
In yet another step toward Making America A Banana Republic, the Justice Department has subpoenaed millions of voter records from North Carolina, to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, apparently as part of an investigation into alleged voting by noncitizens. The feds are demanding the state elections board and 44 county election boards submit ALL voter records for a five-year span, including actual early and absentee ballots that can be linked to individual voters. Gosh, why could anyone have a problem with that?
Why, yes, they ARE pulling this shit -- which will require huge amounts of work on the part of elections boards in some of the poorest parts of the state, with high percentages of minority voters -- just TWO MONTHS in advance of the midterm elections. Can't imagine that could have any untoward effects.
To truly appreciate this hell madness, go read the New York Times's detailed investigation; get ready to say "holy shit" a lot. At this stage, it looks like pretty blatant election fuckery, although the full extent still remains to be seen:
Though the nature, scope and impetus of the federal investigation that generated the subpoenas remain shrouded in mystery, the move appeared to be part of an effort to find and crack down on any unauthorized voting by noncitizens [...]
Representatives of ICE and the Justice Department officials involved declined to comment on the matter.
Nobody's saying anything at this stage, and virtually anyone in government who might know what the hell this is either declined comment or told the Times to ask other officials -- who then declined to comment. But the subpoenas were issued just a week after the feds charged a whopping 19 noncitizens with having illegally voted in North Carolina in 2016, which sure indicates that we need to restrict access to the ballot everywhere. That would be out of 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 general election in that state -- clearly a VAST WAVE of fraud. The state says 500 ineligible ballots were cast in the election, mostly by convicted felons -- and many of those voters said they didn't know they were ineligible to vote. In all, the state believes it found 41 suspected cases of noncitizens voting, although it's not clear what the basis of that suspicion was -- Republican poll-watchers seeing brown people voting?
The Times notes no election results turned on any of those invalid votes, and that in most other cases of noncitizens voting, or registering to vote, the people involved have said they mistakenly thought they were able to vote because they had legal residency -- hardly the wave of widespread fraud that Republicans rail against.
We'd add that certainly lines up with findings in this year's ACLU lawsuit against a Kansas law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The best the state could come up with was a total of 39 registrations of noncitizens in 14 years, out of which only 11 actual votes were cast. The court found virtually all those illegal registrations were due to "administrative error, confusion, or mistake." Then again, millions of Republicans just KNOW the voter rolls are full of illegal aliens because they've seen it in rightwing media, even though the evidence tends to vanish when academics or law enforcement go looking for it.
So what the hell is this North Carolina voter records fuckery all about? Could be Kris Kobach's voter-fraud commission continuing its work despite having been putatively "disbanded." When that thing went down in flames in January -- largely due to states resisting the commission's broad requests for voter information -- Donald Trump said its work would continue under the Department of Homeland Security. And wouldn't you know it, ICE, which is seeking the NC voting documents, is indeed part of DHS, although in one of the few sort-of answers the Times got from any official,
Bryan D. Cox, an ICE spokesman, said on Wednesday that the investigation in North Carolina was "locally driven" by the office of the United States attorney for the Eastern District, Robert J. Higdon Jr.
Yeah, Higdon had nothing to say, either. This is all extremely NOT NORMAL, according to Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Vanita Gupta, the former head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division:
"This is clearly a fishing expedition that picks up where the Pence-Kobach Commission stopped," said Ms. Riggs, referring to Vice President Mike Pence, who had been chairman of the commission. Ms. Riggs added that the administration "appears to be outsourcing the Commission's discredited agenda" to federal prosecutors.
"Nothing about it is normal," said Ms. Gupta, who is now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "It asks for information that has nothing to do with identifying immigrant violations."
The amount of paperwork being demanded is enormous, too. The feds want more than 15 million documents from the state elections board, covering "voter registration applications, early voting application forms, and absentee ballot request forms." The 44 counties -- all in "disproportionately poor and black" counties, imagine that! -- will have to submit another five million documents including
"any and all poll books, e-poll books, voting records, and/or voter authorization documents and executed official ballots" for a five-year period beginning Aug. 30, 2013.
Joshua Lawson, the general counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, said he found the whole thing baffling:
"With the scope so broad, what is the particular interest of immigration authorities?" he said.
The state elections board plans to consider the subpoenas in a telephone meeting on Friday, and may discuss whether to resist them.
Lawson said the demand for counties to turn over documents would almost certainly cause an "administrative strain" on the counties just as they're getting ready for a general election -- they'll have to scan millions of ballots to comply.
And then there's the whole privacy thing: While ballots at polling places on election day are anonymous and non-traceable, North Carolina's absentee and early-voting ballots are marked with an identifying number that could be traced to the voter who cast them.
"I thought it was a hoax when I got it," said Kellie Hopkins, the director of the elections board in Beaufort County. "A subpoena for ballots? I'd think they'd understand you don't give out ballots."
Ms. Hopkins said her office could produce computerized records showing which registered voters cast ballots in elections dating back several years. But she said the county board would meet this week to consider whether to turn over actual ballots.
Hey, if this were an attempt to somehow identify conservative supporters of the NRA through their voting records, don't you think the entire rightosphere would literally be threatening armed revolt? They freak out over census takers, for fuckssake. But nah, this is all about "securing the ballot" and "election integrity," so if it scares away naturalized citizens or minority voters who don't trust the government, it's no biggie. Especially if it's only depressing turnout for Democrats.
And here's a cheerful thought that the New York Times leaves implied but unstated: Why should we have any confidence at all that this sort of fuckery is only happening in one state? There are at least 49 more shoes to drop (plus DC and territories -- they don't get full votes).
Double-check your registration, kids. Make sure everyone you know is registered, and make noise about this. The ratfuckers are literally running the government now.
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