Improper NC absentee ballots in 2020? SBI probe of Meadows ongoing

Improper NC absentee ballots in 2020? SBI probe of Meadows ongoing

Mark Meadows’ voting history in North Carolina came to a close on April 11, when the Macon County Board of Elections removed the former congressman and Donald Trump’s final Chief of Staff from its voter list. 

That did not end the investigation into whether the Republican who once represented Western North Carolina in Congress had improperly registered in Macon County.

The Macon County BOE removed Meadows because he is registered to vote in Virginia and last voted in that state in 2021. By North Carolina law, when a registered voter then votes in another state, that person automatically loses residence in North Carolina. 

Meadows, like any actual resident in North Carolina, could still register to vote for the May 17 primary election until April 22, or register during one-stop in-person voting which runs from April 28 to May 14.

To legally register to vote in North Carolina, voters must be 18 years old by the date of the general election, be U.S. citizens, not serving felony convictions, live in the county where they are registering to vote and have resided there for at least 30 days prior to the election. 

Meadows may have failed to meet that last requirement when he registered to vote in Macon County in 2020, leading to an investigation first by the State Board of Elections and now the State Bureau of Investigation. 

Should the investigation find Meadows at fault for falsely claiming to live at an address to register to vote, then requesting an absentee by-mail-ballot, then voting that by-mail ballot, Meadows could be charged with a felony. 

If convicted, Meadows would then lose the right to vote at least some time in most states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures

State law says it is a felony “For any person knowingly to swear falsely with respect to any matter pertaining to any primary or election.” A warning that falsely giving information is a felony is included in voter registration form directly over the required signature. The absentee ballot request form also includes a warning across the bottom saying falsely or fraudulently completing the form is a felony. 

The New Yorker first reported on March 6 that Meadows registered to vote at a Scaly Mountain, North Carolina, address after having apparently never stayed there, let alone lived there for 30 days. 

An ongoing investigation

On March 7, the State Board of Elections opened an investigation, according to agency spokesperson Pat Gannon

The State Board of Elections has an investigations team. Under normal procedure for investigating claims of election fraud, as described on its website, the Board looks into potential violations as the board is made aware via complaints, documents from a county board or, apparently, news articles. 

At the conclusion of an investigation, the Board’s general council makes a recommendation about whether a potential violation occurred and refers the case to the relevant district attorney for a decision about prosecution. 

Meadows’ story is not playing out in normal procedures. 

On March 14, District Attorney Ashley Welch, who oversees Macon County, requested the state Attorney General’s Office intervene due to a conflict of interest. 

“In late 2014, Congressman Meadows made a financial contribution to my political campaign for District Attorney as well as appeared in several political advertisements endorsing my bid for District Attorney,” Welch wrote in a letter first reported by WRAL

The NC Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section took up the case and asked the State Bureau of Investigation to open an investigation on March 17. 

Now, the SBI is leading the investigation and the State Board of Elections is providing assistance, according to Gannon. 

“As the investigation continues, information will be shared with the prosecutor who will make a determination as to whether any additional persons could be subject to the investigation,” according to Angie Grube, spokesperson for the SBI. 

According to the New Yorker article, it is not clear whether Meadow’s wife, Debbie Meadows, lived at the address, where she also registered. Her registration is still active on the State Board of Elections website. 

“The investigation remains ongoing,” Grube said. “No additional information is available.” 

She did not provide a timeline for the investigation.

When complete, the SBI will refer its findings back to the NC DOJ’s Special Prosecutions Section, which is led by Special Deputy Attorney General Boz Zellinger, who in turn reports to Senior Deputy Attorney General Danielle Elder, according to the NC DOJ.

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