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Civitas questions voter rolls in 6 counties

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pasquotank County maintains its voter rolls in accordance with federal law, county Elections Director Kelli Price said Wednesday.

Price made the assertion in response to questions raised by a statewide conservative group about the voter-roll maintenance efforts in Pasquotank and five other North Carolina counties.

The Civitas Institute recently announced it is making large public records requests at the State Board of Elections and the six counties' elections offices. In its request letters, Civitas questions whether the state and county boards are following the National Voter Registration Act's requirement to make a “reasonable effort” to maintain voter lists free of ineligible voters.

Civitas President Francis De Luca said Civitas' records requests will help verify problems with voter list maintenance and make suggestions to fix them. He also said Civitas is concerned that voters using same-day registration had their ballots counted despite county offices being unable to verify their residency. Civitas has long opposed same-day registration, he noted.

Price said Wednesday she's still reviewing Civitas letter because her office just returned from its Christmas break. She said the office will provide any public information Civitas has requested.

As for Civitas' concerns about voter list maintenance, Price said Pasquotank is constantly updating its voter rolls as required by law. The county receives monthly reports about deaths and felony convictions that allow it to immediately remove deceased persons and convicted felons from the voter rolls.

When people move from Pasquotank, however, the voter must confirm the move with the county before they're removed from the rolls, Price said. Otherwise, the county must go through two federal election cycles, or about four years, before removing those voters’ names from the rolls, she said.

Pasquotank Republican Party Chairman Pete Gilbert said he welcomed Civitas' inquiry. He said he feels the State Board of Elections has “abdicated” its responsibility to “police” the state's elections against irregularities. He cited news reports about improperly registered voters following the general election.

Gilbert himself questioned the residency of 22 voters in an election protest he filed with the Pasquotank Board of Elections earlier this month. The State Board of Elections ended up dismissing the complaint, ruling that regardless of whether the 22 voters were properly registered or not, they were too few to affect the outcome of the now-settled governor's race.

Gilbert said he had had no “formal discussions” with Civitas about its inquiry, but that he would help the group if asked.

Asked if Gilbert's protest had motivated Civitas to include Pasquotank in its inquiry, De Luca said no.

Pasquotank Democratic Party Chairman David Boone had no comment on Civitas' inquiry when reached Wednesday. He said he needed to discuss it first with other Democratic Party officials.

However, several progressive groups are already criticizing Civitas for what they say is an effort to disenfranchise voters.

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