Voting Integrity Also a Rural Issue

Madison County, NC:
Mayberry It's Not

Several days after the election, a thousand votes are discovered to have been "inadvertently omitted" from the election night tally. As a result, the loser in a three-man contest for two superior judge seats suddenly becomes one of the winners. That candidate, a local assistant state district attorney, is said to have received a $1,100 contribution from the chairman of the board of election in the county where the ballots were found. 
To make matter more intriguing, the son of that chairman is awaiting trial next week on multiple felony charges. The prosecutor on record? The same assistant DA who will become a superior court judge should the new vote total stand.  
To add an extra dash of spice to the tale, all the missing ballots are said to be from the controversial practice of one-stop voting, and the sole Republican on the board of elections has gone on record that, among other irregularities, the early voting machines in question were improperly secured.  

Where did this happen? Chicago? Detroit?  Newark?  Philadelphia?  St. Louis?  New Orleans? How about Madison County, North Carolina, a rural county of 20,000 people spread over 452 square miles of southern Appalachia frequented by hikers on the Appalachian Trail and rafters on the French Broad River? I am always amused when people assume that politics in rural America must be less corrupt than politics in urban areas simply because of the rural location. It's been my experience that Madison County has operatives who could give lessons to Chicago political bosses on community organizing and turning out the vote on election day, not to mention keeping it all in the family. 

Here in Madison County, not only do the stories stay the same, but the names don't change, either. The same dozen surnames show up again and again in local history, as the children, grandchildren, great nephews, and great nieces of officeholders long gone on to their maker continue in the family tradition. "Bloody Madison" has been notorious for contentious politics since the Civil War.
So where does the above matter stand almost two weeks past Election Day?

The Madison County Board of Elections recessed Friday afternoon without completing its planned canvass of the election results, based on the advice of the staff of the state board of elections.

The recess was suggested to give the state board the opportunity to consider a protest filed by Spruce Pine attorney Hal G. Harrison, a candidate in the 24th judicial district election of Superior Court judges.

The District Attorney is in a pickle. His assistant has been implicated in what appears to be at best an unethical conflict of interest. His response was to punt. Jonathan D. Austin of the News-Record & Sentinel writes:

The district attorney for the 24th Judicial District said Thursday that he has asked state and federal authorities to investigate allegations of irregularities in the election.

"I talked to Jim Coman, head of the prosecution unit in the attorney general's office," District Attorney Jerry Wilson said Thursday. "He is going to have the SBI and someone from their office direct the investigation."

 

Federal authorities are involved because of an earlier incident in another county in which people early voting on touchscreen machines noticed that voting a straight Republican ballot caused the printed ballot next to the touchscreen to record votes for each Democrat in a given race.  
Wilson said he contacted the U.S. Attorney in Charlotte after complaints that Madison County voters were not given court-ordered guidance in the wake of a federal settlement ordering that poll workers in Madison and 34 other North Carolina counties post signs regarding possible problems with the electronic vote machines.

"I notified the federal authorities concerning the allegation that proper warnings weren't given" as required by the court settlement. 

 

After the early voting problem was brought to light, a federal court ordered not only that written warnings be posted in polling places of the need for voters to check the machine printed results against the touchscreen, but also that verbal notice be given to voters to check the touchscreen with the printed ballot. In his letter to the county's newspaper, the News-Record & Sentinel in Marshall, about improperly secured machines and ballots, Republican board of elections member Andy Gibson also noted that the verbal notice ordered by the federal court had not been given while he was present at several of Madison county's voting locations, including the two locations involved in the irregularity. 
I have heard stories of hanky-panky in strictly local races since almost the day I moved into the county. What makes this particularly interesting is that the results most in doubt are from a race that involves four adjacent counties: Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, and Yancey. A whole lot of people in those counties don't have much respect for politicians from Madison County. Indeed, all across North Carolina, voters are increasingly unhappy with Democrat control of an entire state with a growing reputation for corruption. 

As a result on Election Day Republicans became the majority party in the North Carolina state legislature for the first time since 1870. That's not a typo. Republicans have not controlled the state legislature for 140 years. Although North Carolina judicial races are nonpartisan, Hal Harrison has been known to support Republicans. The new state senator for the district that includes Madison County, Republican Ralph Hise, is the mayor of Spruce Pine, which is where Harrison lives. At a little over 2,000 people, Spruce Pine is the largest community in Mitchell County. Between this race, stories about one stop voting abuse in 2008, and pundits noting that North Carolina is one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the union, I expect the Republican state legislature to spend a lot of time looking into election integrity issues next session. 

 

Readers who want to start a laundry list of what can go wrong with security of one-stop early voting and touchscreen machines would do well to start with this letter, which originally ran in the print edition of the News-Record & Sentinel in Marshall, North Carolina.  
Madison County, NC:
Mayberry It's Not

Several days after the election, a thousand votes are discovered to have been "inadvertently omitted" from the election night tally. As a result, the loser in a three-man contest for two superior judge seats suddenly becomes one of the winners. That candidate, a local assistant state district attorney, is said to have received a $1,100 contribution from the chairman of the board of election in the county where the ballots were found. 
To make matter more intriguing, the son of that chairman is awaiting trial next week on multiple felony charges. The prosecutor on record? The same assistant DA who will become a superior court judge should the new vote total stand.  

To add an extra dash of spice to the tale, all the missing ballots are said to be from the controversial practice of one-stop voting, and the sole Republican on the board of elections has gone on record that, among other irregularities, the early voting machines in question were improperly secured.  

Where did this happen? Chicago? Detroit?  Newark?  Philadelphia?  St. Louis?  New Orleans? How about Madison County, North Carolina, a rural county of 20,000 people spread over 452 square miles of southern Appalachia frequented by hikers on the Appalachian Trail and rafters on the French Broad River? I am always amused when people assume that politics in rural America must be less corrupt than politics in urban areas simply because of the rural location. It's been my experience that Madison County has operatives who could give lessons to Chicago political bosses on community organizing and turning out the vote on election day, not to mention keeping it all in the family. 

Here in Madison County, not only do the stories stay the same, but the names don't change, either. The same dozen surnames show up again and again in local history, as the children, grandchildren, great nephews, and great nieces of officeholders long gone on to their maker continue in the family tradition. "Bloody Madison" has been notorious for contentious politics since the Civil War.

So where does the above matter stand almost two weeks past Election Day?

The Madison County Board of Elections recessed Friday afternoon without completing its planned canvass of the election results, based on the advice of the staff of the state board of elections.

The recess was suggested to give the state board the opportunity to consider a protest filed by Spruce Pine attorney Hal G. Harrison, a candidate in the 24th judicial district election of Superior Court judges.

The District Attorney is in a pickle. His assistant has been implicated in what appears to be at best an unethical conflict of interest. His response was to punt. Jonathan D. Austin of the News-Record & Sentinel writes:

The district attorney for the 24th Judicial District said Thursday that he has asked state and federal authorities to investigate allegations of irregularities in the election.

"I talked to Jim Coman, head of the prosecution unit in the attorney general's office," District Attorney Jerry Wilson said Thursday. "He is going to have the SBI and someone from their office direct the investigation."

 

Federal authorities are involved because of an earlier incident in another county in which people early voting on touchscreen machines noticed that voting a straight Republican ballot caused the printed ballot next to the touchscreen to record votes for each Democrat in a given race.  
Wilson said he contacted the U.S. Attorney in Charlotte after complaints that Madison County voters were not given court-ordered guidance in the wake of a federal settlement ordering that poll workers in Madison and 34 other North Carolina counties post signs regarding possible problems with the electronic vote machines.

"I notified the federal authorities concerning the allegation that proper warnings weren't given" as required by the court settlement. 

 

After the early voting problem was brought to light, a federal court ordered not only that written warnings be posted in polling places of the need for voters to check the machine printed results against the touchscreen, but also that verbal notice be given to voters to check the touchscreen with the printed ballot. In his letter to the county's newspaper, the News-Record & Sentinel in Marshall, about improperly secured machines and ballots, Republican board of elections member Andy Gibson also noted that the verbal notice ordered by the federal court had not been given while he was present at several of Madison county's voting locations, including the two locations involved in the irregularity. 
I have heard stories of hanky-panky in strictly local races since almost the day I moved into the county. What makes this particularly interesting is that the results most in doubt are from a race that involves four adjacent counties: Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, and Yancey. A whole lot of people in those counties don't have much respect for politicians from Madison County. Indeed, all across North Carolina, voters are increasingly unhappy with Democrat control of an entire state with a growing reputation for corruption. 

As a result on Election Day Republicans became the majority party in the North Carolina state legislature for the first time since 1870. That's not a typo. Republicans have not controlled the state legislature for 140 years. Although North Carolina judicial races are nonpartisan, Hal Harrison has been known to support Republicans. The new state senator for the district that includes Madison County, Republican Ralph Hise, is the mayor of Spruce Pine, which is where Harrison lives. At a little over 2,000 people, Spruce Pine is the largest community in Mitchell County. Between this race, stories about one stop voting abuse in 2008, and pundits noting that North Carolina is one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the union, I expect the Republican state legislature to spend a lot of time looking into election integrity issues next session. 

 

Readers who want to start a laundry list of what can go wrong with security of one-stop early voting and touchscreen machines would do well to start with this letter, which originally ran in the print edition of the News-Record & Sentinel in Marshall, North Carolina.