Attorney General Bill Barr sparked widespread criticism on Wednesday when responding to a question about something President Donald Trump said earlier in the day. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said that it sounded like Trump had illegally encouraged supporters to vote twice in the 2020 election, Barr said he didn’t know “exactly” what the president was saying but guessed that the comment was unserious (he had a similar response to a question about treason). The Attorney General also said “I don’t know what the law in the particular state says” and “I don’t know what the law in the particular state says and when that vote becomes final.”
That particular state is North Carolina. Here is what the election laws define as felonies in the state of North Carolina (with emphasis on one particular offense):
§ 163-275. Certain acts declared felonies.
Any person who shall, in connection with any primary, general or special election held in this State, do any of the acts or things declared in this section to be unlawful, shall be guilty of a Class I felony. It shall be unlawful:
(1) For any person fraudulently to cause that person’s name to be placed upon the registration books of more than one election precinct or fraudulently to cause or procure that person’s name or that of any other person to be placed upon the registration books in any precinct when registration in that precinct does not qualify the person to vote legally therein, or to impersonate falsely another registered voter for the purpose of voting in the stead of the other voter.
(2) For any person to give or promise or request or accept at any time, before or after any such primary or election, any money, property or other thing of value whatsoever in return for the vote of any elector.
(3) For any person who is an election officer, a member of an election board or other officer charged with any duty with respect to any primary or election, knowingly to make any false or fraudulent entry on any election book or any false or fraudulent returns, or knowingly to make or cause to be made any false statement on any ballot, or to do any fraudulent act or knowingly and fraudulently omit to do any act or make any report legally required of that person.
(4) For any person knowingly to swear falsely with respect to any matter pertaining to any primary or election.
(5) For any person convicted of a crime which excludes the person from the right of suffrage, to vote at any primary or election without having been restored to the right of citizenship in due course and by the method provided by law.
(6) For any person to take corruptly the oath prescribed for voters.
(7) For any person with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time, or to induce another to do so, in the same primary or election, or to vote illegally at any primary or election.
(8) For any chief judge or any clerk or copyist to make any entry or copy with intent
to commit a fraud.
(9) For any election official or other officer or person to make, certify, deliver or transmit any false returns of any primary or election, or to make any erasure, alteration, or conceal or destroy any election ballot, book, record, return or process with intent to commit a fraud.
(10) For any person to assault any chief judge, judge of election or other election officer while in the discharge of duties in the registration of voters or in conducting any primary or election.
(11) For any person, by threats, menaces or in any other manner, to intimidate or attempt to intimidate any chief judge, judge of election or other election officer in the discharge of duties in the registration of voters or in conducting any primary or election.
(12) For any chief judge, judge of election, member of a board of elections, assistant, marker, or other election official, directly or indirectly, to seek, receive or accept money or the promise of money, the promise of office, or other reward or compensation from a candidate in any primary or election or from any source other than such compensation as may be provided by law for that person’s services.
(13) For any person falsely to make or present any certificate or other paper to qualify any person fraudulently as a voter, or to attempt thereby to secure to any person the privilege of voting, including declarations made under this Chapter, G.S. 130A-93.1(c), and G.S. 161-10(a)(8).
(14) For any officer to register voters and any other individual to knowingly and willfully receive, complete, or sign an application to register from any voter contrary to the provisions of G.S. 163-82.4.
(15) Reserved for future codification purposes.
(16) For any person falsely to make the certificate provided by G.S. 163-229(b)(2).
(17) For any person, directly or indirectly, to misrepresent the law to the public through mass mailing or any other means of communication where the intent and the effect is to intimidate or discourage potential voters from exercising
their lawful right to vote.
(18) For any person, knowing that a person is not a citizen of the United States, to instruct or coerce that person to register to vote or to vote.
(19) To counterfeit, sell, lend to, or knowingly permit the use of, by one not entitled thereto, a form of photo identification provided in G.S. 163-166.16 for the purposes of voting.
The bold and italicized text (emphasis ours) says that it is a felony for “any person with intent to commit a fraud register” or to “induce” someone to vote more than once in an election. In any event, Trump’s critics and Wolf Blitzer argued that this is what the president did during an interview with WECT on Wednesday, where Trump commented on what voters — in his view — “should do.”
“They will vote and then they are going to have to check their vote by going to the poll and voting that way because if it tabulates then they won’t be able to do that. So let them send it in, and let them go vote,” President Trump said. “And if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote (at the poll). If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote. So that’s the way it is, and that’s what they should do.”
“I don’t like the idea of these unsolicited votes. I never did. It leads to a lot of problems. They’ve got 11 problems already on very small contests. I’m not happy about it. At the same time, we’re in court with a lot of it. We’re going to see if it can be stopped,” he continued. “But send your ballots, send them in strong, whether it’s solicited or unsolicited. The absentees are fine. But go to vote and if they haven’t counted it, you can vote. That’s the way I view it.”
Attorney General Barr interpreted these words as the president “trying to make the point that the ability to monitor this system is not good. And if it was so good, if you tried to vote a second time you would be caught if you voted in person.”
“That would be illegal if they did that,” Blitzer shot back. “If somebody mailed in a ballot and then actually showed up to vote in person, that would be illegal.”
“I don’t know what the law in the particular state says,” Barr responded.
“You can’t vote twice,” Blitzer answered.
Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections Karen Brinson Bell released a statement on Thursday morning in response to all of this, citing to the statute we emphasized above.
“It is illegal to vote twice in an election. N.C.G.S. § 163-275(7) makes it a Class I felony for a voter, ‘with intent to commit a fraud to register or vote at more than one precinct or more than one time…in the same primary or election.’ Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so also is a violation of North Carolina law,” Bell said.
Bell also noted that there are options for citizens who are unsure about whether their mail-in ballots were accepted. Those options did not include showing up at the polls to test the system:
Check your voter record at the State Board’s Voter Search Tool to find out whether your ballot was accepted by your county board of elections. This information will appear in the voter record after a ballot has been accepted.
Sign up for BallotTrax, when it launches in the next few days, to track your ballot through the system. BallotTrax is a new service that will allow voters to track their ballot through the mail and confirm receipt by the county board of elections, much like they can track their online order or pizza delivery. When it launches, a link will be available at NCSBE.gov.
Contact your county board of elections if you have questions about your ballot status.
The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted. That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.
[Image via CNN screengrab]
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