Federal prosecutors, working in conjunction with ICE, are attempting to gain access to North Carolina's voting records, citing concerns about fraudulent voters. The subpoenas are for roughly 20 million documents, including "five years of ballots and eight years of voter registration applications," as well as inquiries into voter citizenship data. The subpoenas are a continuation of the Trump administration's investigation into what it claims is widespread voter fraud. Per an ICE press release:
Nineteen foreign nationals were charged with unlawfully voting in the 2016 elections Friday, and a U.S. citizen was charged with aiding and abetting an alien to falsely claim U.S. citizenship to register to vote. The indictments follow an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as part of a newly created Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Far from a widespread criminal conspiracy, many of the people recently charged with illegally voting did not even know they were ineligible. Per The Huffington Post:
The sole U.S. citizen facing charges ― Denslo Allen Paige, a 66-year-old Walmart worker who lives in Raleigh ― told HuffPost she helped her boyfriend register in the weeks before the 2016 general election because he had been talking a lot about politics. Paige wasn’t sure if her boyfriend, a legal permanent resident, was eligible to vote, so when she filled out a voter registration form at an early voting site with him, she left the box asking about his citizenship blank. A copy of the form provided to HuffPost by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement shows a checkmark in the “yes” box asking if the person is a U.S. citizen, but Paige insists she did not check it.
Paige said she had served as a poll worker before, and she thought someone would flag the application and send her to a separate table to inquire about her boyfriend’s citizenship status. But she said when she asked if her boyfriend could vote, a poll worker accepted the form and indicated he could cast his ballot, so she thought everything was OK.
On Friday, federal prosecutors announced that Paige had been indicted for “aiding and abetting” her boyfriend’s false claim of citizenship so he could vote. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her boyfriend, Guadalupe Espinosa-Peña, a 63-year-old immigrant from Mexico, faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine for making a false claim of citizenship in addition to illegally voting.
Claims of voter fraud have been a major part of Donald Trump's presidency. Soon after taking office, Vice President Pence spearheaded a commission to investigate claims of voter fraud.
Matthew Dunlap, Maine's Secretary of State and a former member of President Trump's disbanded commission on voter fraud, talked about his experience on the commission with NPR. Dunlap said the workings of the commission were shrouded in mystery, even from its members. As the work went on, Dunlap became concerned and requested all pertinent documents.
DUNLAP: Well, what's remarkable about the documents is what's not in there, and what's not in there is any substantiated evidence of voter misconduct at any scale. In fact, one of the troubling things about the documents that we saw was that before we were even really meeting, commission staff were working on a framework of a report. And several sections of report talk about voter fraud, and those sections are completely blank. They didn't insert any information whatsoever.
So that's why we've been saying that, even though the idea was to investigate voter fraud, it is pretty clear that the purpose of the commission was to actually affirm and validate the president's claims whether or not we had any evidence of any such voter misconduct.
Even after the commission was disbanded, the president claimed there was a large, credible threat posed by fraudulent voters. Per The New York Times:
Mr. Trump did not acknowledge the commission’s inability to find evidence of fraud, but cast the closing as a result of continuing legal challenges.
“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Mr. Trump said in a White House statement on Wednesday.
“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action,” he said.
The specter of voter fraud has haunted the country for decades. The New York Times recently investigated the phenomenon, focusing on the chaotic 2000 presidential election in St. Louis.
Rampant voter fraud does not exist. There is no epidemic of illegal voting. But the lie is so mesmerizing, it takes off like a wildfire, so that the irrational fear that someone might vote who shouldn’t means that hundreds of thousands who should can’t cast ballots, in part because of the increase in voter ID laws across the country in recent years.
....Senator Bond seemed to learn this well. He repeatedly claimed that Democrats were using the names of dead people and dogs to vote. He insisted that other people were creating fake addresses at vacant lots. Just as the best lies hold a kernel of truth, Senator Bond chose wisely.
Some prankster had indeed registered a 13-year-old springer spaniel, Ritzy Meckler, to vote. Yet there is no record anywhere of Fido, Rover, Lassie or even Ritzy casting a ballot. Similarly, the myth of a swarm of fraudulent voters using the addresses of vacant lots to tilt the election to the Democrats, while tantalizing, collapsed under scrutiny. An investigation found that the city had wrongly listed 65 of the 79 suspicious addresses as vacant.
Senator Bond did eventually find a dead person on the voter registration rolls, a former city alderman. But there was no evidence that anyone with his name voted in the 2000 election. By the time all of Senator Bond’s claims had been investigated, it was clear that out of the 2.3 million Missouri voters, four people committed some type of malfeasance — hardly constituting “brazen” voter fraud.