A troubling new report documents how Pat McCrory’s campaign falsely accused hundreds of voters of fraud in a desperate and ultimately doomed bid to cling on to the governorship of North Carolina.
The report underscores how far-reaching claims about fraud so often collapse under scrutiny. And it highlights how false fraud charges can embarrass and intimidate innocent people exercising their most basic democratic right, potentially having a chilling effect on voting.
It was conducted by Democracy North Carolina, a leading pro-democracy organization in the state, based on interviews and public records. That’s the same group that led the way in drawing attention to the efforts of local election boards to restrict early voting last fall to benefit the GOP.
In the days after election day, McCrory, a Republican, trailed Democrat Roy Cooper by a razor-thin margin. The report recounts how, in an effort to reverse the result, McCrory and the state GOP filed legal paperwork to charge around 600 voters with casting fraudulent or suspect ballots. They also launched an aggressive media campaign to publicize the allegations — almost all of which proved false.
McCrory’s effort failed, and Cooper is now governor. But the report details the experiences of those who were falsely accused of fraud.
One man, Joseph Golden, who had recently moved to Brunswick County, was the target of an official protest by the GOP, which claimed he had also voted in Maryland. Golden soon found his name on the front page of local newspapers as being charged with voter fraud. “There’s a cheater amongst us,” someone wrote on social media.
In fact, Golden had voted in Maryland’s primary when he lived there, but not in the general.
The local GOP chair, who had helped protest Golden’s vote after party lawyers said they had “ironclad evidence” that Golden voted twice in the general, told the report’s authors that he wonders: “Why did I get myself involved in this crap?”
Read the whole report for scores of similar stories from across the state. It also shows the haphazard way in which GOP lawyers and officials leveled challenges on the basis of flimsy evidence, throwing anything against the wall to see what would stick without regard for there consequences.
Democracy North Carolina wants a state and federal investigation into the McCrory campaign and the state GOP. The report includes specific statutes which, it claims, GOP officials may have violated.
Of course, the false voter fraud charges were hardly the only time that McCrory and the North Carolina GOP have acted to restrict democracy. In 2013, they passed the strictest voting law in the country, ultimately blocked by a federal court which found it “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” They also passed a redistricting plan that was found to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. And, once it became clear that McCrory would lose his reelection race, they approved a set of new rules that gave their party more power in running elections, which also were rejected by a court.