Polk board of elections reviews two voters’ eligibility

Published 6:13 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Polk County’s Board of Elections plans to send address verification requests to two voters in an attempt to determine if the voters are legally able to cast ballots in Polk County.
“I had someone bring it to (the board’s) attention that two people voted last election that are not residents of Polk County,” said Polk County Director of Elections Dale Edwards during the board of election’s Jan. 18 meeting. “And they’ve asked that we address it.”
Board member George Comparetto asked if the witnesses reported the illegal voting at their polling places. Edwards said they had not because the two voters in question are “children of prominent people in Polk County.”
Edwards would not provide the names of the two individuals. She said one of them does own a residence on Red Fox Road but she believes they live elsewhere, while the other voter lives in Landrum.
The voters in question cast their votes in precincts six and eight.
Edwards said the board already sent mailings out to both of the precincts because polling places in those areas had changed before the last election. She said neither of the two addresses provided came back undeliverable.
“It’s not their responsibility to prove they are legally able to vote… the burden of proof is on the person challenging,” Edwards said.
The problem, she said, is that right now the two people who claim to have witnessed the illegal voting are not willing to come forward and file a formal complaint.
Comparetto said voters need to know their rights.
“The first thing we should do is explain to them their right to challenge a vote the day of an election,” he said.
Board member Becky Kennedy said voters also must accept their responsibility to keep elections fair and free of corruption.
“We can’t correct our registration unless someone brings these things to our attention,” Kennedy said. “And we want everyone to be legally registered.”
Edwards added that she doesn’t think the two voters have cast ballots illegally out of malice. She said some voters simply don’t understand the rules.
To register to vote, you must meet the following qualifications:
• You must be a citizen of the United States
• You must be a resident of North Carolina and Polk County for 30 days before the election
• You must be at least 18 years old by the next general election
• If you have been convicted of a felony, your rights of citizenship must have been restored
Edwards clarified the definition of a resident.
She said a residence is where a person spends 50 percent or more of their time. Where you have your driver’s license registered and where you do business are also determinants for residency, she said.
Board members voted and approved taking action by sending address verification requests to the residents in question. If the residents do not respond within 30 days, the board will consider further action.
“I think that would be a way to rectify the problem,” Edwards said. “Obviously, we can’t go back and take their vote back.”
Board of elections members do have the right and ability to challenge a resident’s vote but they would have to do so through a formal challenge hearing, which would allow the resident to come in and dispute their registration being revoked.
The board will review its findings at their next meeting, scheduled for the third Tuesday in March.

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