Lee BOE holds hearing on alleged voter fraud

May. 09, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

The Lee County Board of Elections held a hearing regarding supposed voter fraud — alleged by Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack, who did not appear at the hearing as ordered by the local board — Wednesday night.

The election board unanimously agreed to send the information regarding the hearing and the alleged voter fraud to the N.C. Board of Elections and to the local district attorney's office during its 5:30 p.m. meeting at the local board of elections' headquarters.

"If there is voter fraud in Lee County, we have to investigate it," said election board member Shannon Gurwitch after the meeting. "Our responsibility is to ensure the integrity of the voting process."

Womack said he was not present at the hearing because of a previously scheduled meeting in Raleigh and because he'd provided the information to the board.

"I will cooperate. I've been cooperative," Womack said Wednesday night. "I've cooperated with everyone. I've volunteered the information. I am puzzled by the perception some may have that I am not cooperating."

The hearing stems from comments made by Womack during the Dec. 3, 2012, Lee County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The local elections board was concerned when Womack declared to have "first-hand knowledge of individuals having sold their ballots" during the commissioner meeting, according to a letter dated Dec. 11, 2012, to Womack by the board. Selling and purchasing ballots are state felonies and the board "would ask that (Womack) immediately provide (the) board and the district attorney's office with the names of those individuals who have sold their votes," according to the December letter.

Election board member Jon Silverman said Womack did not comply with the board's December request and a subsequent request in March.

In a letter to Womack from the elections board dated March 21, 2013, the board asked Womack to disclose the names of those who sold their ballots to Lee County Board of Elections Director Nancy Kimble by April 10.

"In the event that you choose not to voluntary cooperate," the letter said. "We will consider our further options including, if possible, compelling your testimony."

After the April 10 deadline, the board voted to order a hearing to investigate the alleged voter fraud and for Womack to be served a copy of the order by the Lee County Sheriff's Office. The order was served by Lee County Sheriff Chief Deputy Randall Butler on April 18.

During the Wednesday meeting, Gurwitch said she had recently spoken to Womack, who gave her the names of the individuals he alleges sold their ballots. She said she would inform the other board members in private of their names so the names would be included in the information sent to the state board of elections and the District Attorney's Office but not publicized by media outlets.

Womack should have appeared during the hearing, under oath, to provide the requested information instead of sending the information through one board member, Silverman said. 

"He forced this board to order him to be here. He did not honor the order," Silverman said. "... I wanted to hear from him under oath about this information."

It is prudent for this board, he said, to send the information to the state board and the district attorney's office so they can, if needed, legally compel Womack to provide his testimony.

"It's disparaging to use (Gurwitch) as his messenger," Silverman said. "When he should have come here and looked everyone in the eye."

Womack said he gave the names to Gurwitch, a fellow Republican, because "it's a party matter, in my perspective."

Information regarding voter fraud has been presented to the local and state board resulting in no action, Womack said.

"The fact is I have repeatedly given them information and evidence of voter fraud," Womack said. "Neither the county and state have taken any action to pursue that. Imagine my disappointment. Only recently has it come back up so they can take action."

Information, including the names of those accused of voter fraud, was provided in 2010, 2012 and to Gurwitch, Womack said.

"This is not new news," Womack said. "My allegations date back to 2010 and they decide in December 2012, a few months before the elections board (terms are) set to expire, to do something. It appears that want to make it political."

Womack said he is interested in eliminating voter fraud, regardless of political party.

"This should not be a political issue," he said. "It's a matter of principle and not politics."

In an email from Womack to N.C. Board of Elections Field Auditor Joe Patton dated Oct. 20, 2011, Womack claims he met two people who sold their absentee ballots to "a local Democrat operative" for $10 each during the fall 2010 election.