‘Maybe as much attention as is focused on illegal voting could be placed on educating election workers…’
(Josh Shaffer, The News & Observer – Raleigh, N.C.) Hyo Suk George lived legally in the United States for nearly 20 years before she voted in her first election, coaxed to cast her ballot by a town council member at her church.
To register, she presented a green card, Social Security number and driver’s license—proof enough for the elections officials in Columbus County—then voted in 2008, 2010 and 2016.
In court in Raleigh on Thursday, federal public defender Sherri Alspaugh said George never intended to vote illegally, having had little exposure to the system. Only fully naturalized U.S. citizens can vote; a green card grants permanent residency without citizenship.
George, 70, first came to the United States from Korea in 1989 and has held a green card since 1995, working in both housekeeping and fast food, Alspaugh said. Much of her time is spent caring for an ailing husband, who has prostate cancer, at their home outside Whiteville, a town of roughly 5,400 people.
She took the advice of the town council member and went to register “next to the senior center” in Whiteville, Alspaugh said, noting that her client could not remember if she went to the county board or a library. She added there were likely volunteers doing the work.
On Thursday, George faced charges of illegal voting from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for which she might have spent six months in prison.
But instead, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle chastised the elections board in Whiteville, letting George go with a $100 fine.
“So they see a green card and say, ‘That’s OK’ because they don’t know what they’re doing,” said Boyle, chief judge of the eastern district of North Carolina. “They ought to be a little smarter than that.”
Boyle added that “maybe as much attention as is focused on illegal voting could be placed on educating election workers.”
The judge’s comments came as controversy continues to swirl around the state’s 9th Congressional District, where the elected Republican congressman, Mark Harris, is fighting to keep his seat amid accusations of absentee ballot fraud from a partisan member of the state elections board.
A court is scheduled to hear Harris’s petition that evidence was insufficient to overturn the election, although state Republicans agree that an investigation into the longstanding concern should continue after Harris is seated.
Meanwhile, another battle is brewing over the state’s voter identification laws. Much to the chagrin of Democrats in the state, North Carolina voters supported a ballot amendment last year to strengthen election integrity in the polling place.
In 2016, an investigation by the North Carolina Board of Elections found that out of 4.8 million people who cast ballots, 508 were ineligible to vote. Most of them were felons on active sentences.
Last August, 19 illegal immigrants in the state were indicted in federal court on counts of felony voting fraud, with some falsely claiming U.S. citizenship. However, voter-reform advocates suspect there are many more that left-leaning localities are refusing to aid in uncovering.
The federal bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has met with considerable resistance from the state’s blue enclaves, including Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte, where local law-enforcement and other officials are refusing to cooperate with their efforts.
After ICE requested millions of voter records last September to investigate possible instances of illegal voting, the Board of Elections, appointed by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper, refused to comply.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.
(c)2019 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.