Omission Statement: What The Charlotte Observer Isn't Telling Readers About The Voter Integrity Project

The Charlotte Observer's reprint of an article on alleged dead registered voters in North Carolina omitted critical information about an activist group pushing voter fraud mythology that were included in the original story, including its ties to a national voter suppression organization.

The paper, which cut its full-time statehouse reporting staff earlier this year, relied on an article published a week earlier in Raleigh's News & Observer to inform its readers on the efforts of the Voter Integrity Project of NC (VIP-NC) to challenge the status of thousands of North Carolina voters. The Charlotte Observer did not print the Raleigh report in full, however, and omitted significant details about the group's faulty tactics and failed to provide broader context about the issue of voter fraud. On top of this, both papers have neglected to identify the connection between VIP-NC and True the Vote, a national Tea Party-affiliated organization formed to fear-monger about voter fraud.

Following are examples of News & Observer's reporting that The Charlotte Observer left out:

  • A quote from N.C. Board of Elections Director of Voter Registration and Absentee Voting Veronica Degraffenreid:

“The Voter Integrity Project has not brought forth any information to show that someone is voting in the name of another, and I think citizens of North Carolina need to be aware of that.”

  • A claim by the director of the VIP-NC, Jay DeLancy, that his method of determining the number of alleged dead voters -- a list of 27,500 names -- was based in part on the intuition of his volunteers:

They began with last names, then a volunteer would look for potential matches - for example considering an “Elizabeth” and a “Liz” with the same age and address to be a match.

“It took intuition,” DeLancy said. “We trained a lot of volunteers.”

DeLancy said he's confident that at least 90 percent of the names he delivered should be removed from the rolls.

  • Questions about the efficacy of VIP-NC's strategy:

The nonprofit group used “fuzzy matching,” Degraffenreid said. The death data from the Department of Health and Human Services includes age but not a date of birth, which is essential in making matches, she said.

“The Voter Integrity Project doesn't have really the necessary data to make a determination that a voter is deceased,” Degraffenreid said.

Even a full match doesn't mean a registered voter has died. Degraffenreid recalled removing a man who matched on first, middle and last names, date of birth and county of residence who turned out to be a different voter. He showed up to the polls and voted a provisional ballot when he was told he had been removed, she said.

  • Facts about the scarcity of voter fraud:

Meanwhile, cases of fraud remain rare. In 2009, the board referred 29 cases of double voting to county district attorneys, according to a board report. Since 2000, the board has referred one case of voter impersonation, the report states.

In addition to these omissions in The Charlotte Observer's piece, both the Charlotte paper and the Raleigh News & Observer have failed to illustrate the connection between VIP-NC and True the Vote, a national Tea Party-affiliated organization dedicated to trumping up voter fraud claims and tout voter ID laws. True the Vote has ties to the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, several Tea Party groups, and other right-wing organizations. True the Vote's parent organization, the King Street Patriots, helped place hundreds of white poll watchers in minority neighborhoods in 2010, and the group was accused of voter intimidation.

The New York Times reported on True the Vote's connections to VIP-NC, and noted that VIP-NC eventually split from True the Vote in order to more aggressively pursue challenges against immigrants -- a tactic even True the Vote distanced itself from. (DeLancy's comments to the Times also served as an inadvertent admission that voter fraud is extremely rare -- by comparing it to the Holy Grail, a mythical object and commonly-used metaphor for rare or unobtainable goals). From the Times (emphasis added):

Finding that someone voted in the name of a dead person is the holy grail of the voter integrity movement, said Jay DeLancy, a retired Air Force officer in North Carolina who embraced the cause after attending a True the Vote meeting last year. Mr. DeLancy, who runs the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, said the group recently submitted the names of 30,000 people who he said were dead yet remained on voter rolls in the state.

Earlier this year, he challenged more than 500 registered voters who he said were not American citizens. After reviewing the challenges, election officials refuted most of them, but confirmed that three were noncitizens who had registered improperly. One had voted.

Mr. DeLancy said he was convinced that the elections agency overlooked many noncitizen voters.

“They want me to look stupid and to look like I'm wasting taxpayer money,” Mr. DeLancy said.

He said he split from True the Vote partly because the group raised concerns about focusing on immigrants. “They're not wanting to be branded some kind of anti-immigrant activist group,” Mr. DeLancy said.

Mr. DeLancy said he made challenges after comparing voting rolls with citizenship information in jury duty records.

The Voter Integrity Project has a record of failure, and its efforts have amounted to little more than a challenge of the basic rights of legitimate voters. Nevertheless, the Charlotte Observer -- and to a lesser extent the News & Observer  -- continue to inform its readers on the group without reporting all the facts.