Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have requested millions of North Carolina voter registration records, after 19 non-citizens were charged in late August with voting illegally.
The federal officials sent subpoenas to 44 North Carolina counties, requesting they produce 20 million records generated between 2010 and 2018. State officials have until September 25 to produce the records, which include voter registration records, write-in absentee ballots and early-voting application forms.
Per The News & Observer, officials with the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said the federal request includes 2.2 million ballots—early voting ballots and ballots cast by mail—that can be traced back to the people who cast them, and 3.3 million ballots that cannot be traced to individuals.
A federal official told The Wall Street Journal that the subpoenas stem from an investigation into voter registration fraud in which 19 people were charged or indicted in North Carolina for illegally voting in the 2016 election.
State board officials on Wednesday (September 5) said they are troubled by the federal request.
“We are deeply concerned by the administrative drain on county boards of elections in order to comply with the extensive subpoenas immediately prior to a federal election, including the necessary reproduction of millions of documents (all ballots, etc.),” Josh Kawson, general counsel for the state board, told The News and Observer.
In some cases, the federal subpoenas will require pulling paper records one by one, a task that is beyond the capacity of the state board.
“If the records were turned over, there is no way to hold an election,” Gerry Cohen, a former special counsel to the state legislature, told The Journal.
ICE and DOJ officials have declined to comment on the case.
Voting rights groups denounced the subpoenas as a voter suppression scheme aimed at communities of color.
“Federal officials’ decision to issue subpoenas to 44 counties across North Carolina seeking vast amounts of voting records is a clear attempt to intimidate and suppress minority voting rights,” tweeted Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.