Under the Dome

Civitas requests investigations of state elections agency

UPDATED:The Civitas Institute is requesting the North Carolina attorney general, state auditor, secretary of state and State Board of Elections investigate state election staffers for engaging in political activity, alleging possible criminal violations, in sweeping complaints filed Tuesday.

The conservative think tank also wants inquiries into the conduct of Bob Hall, the director and lobbyist for Democracy North Carolina, an advocacy organization that often butts heads with Civitas.

In the four letters, Civitas President Francis De Luca identifies three areas for investigation that it uncovered in more than 5,000 emails obtained through public records requests:

--In 2012, then-elections chief Gary Bartlett asked a staff attorney to fact-check partisan talking points for Hall that criticized Republicans for opposing efforts to get Help America Vote Act money for the administration of elections

--In 2008 and possibly other years, Bartlett also allowed Hall to edit a nonpartisan voters guide to judicial elections, suggesting formatting and style changes as well as edits to candidates' statements

--In 2012, Bartlett and a lawyer for the elections agency allowed an outside vendor to submit voter registration forms using an electronic signature, which Civitas contends violates state law, and falsely claimed the state attorney general's office signed off on the matter.

"They are all egregious because they strike right at the heart of what makes our system work and that's the election system," De Luca said.

Kim Strach, the state elections executive director who replaced Bartlett in May, said she could not comment on the letters because she hadn't seen them yet. Hall dismissed the complaint, calling it a "silly effort." He also said increasing HAVA funds was not a partisan measure.

"Maybe they hope it will cause me to be less vocal or stop working to improve the election process in North Carolina," he wrote in a statement about the complaint.

Democracy North Carolina acts as a campaign finance and elections watchdog. Hall has recently filed complaints requesting the state elections board investigate sweepstakes gambling money. It also does issue advocacy and limited lobbying allowed under its 501c3 tax status. The group, for instance, had its name was plastered on numerous T-shirts at the "Moral Monday" rally against the Republican legislative agenda.

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