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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. (Read them below.)

Strach in, Bartlett out at elections board

The Republican-controlled State Board of Elections Wednesday chose Kim Strach, a veteran campaign investigator, to be the elections board director.

The board chose Strach to replace Gary Bartlett who had been elections director for the past 20 years.

The vote was 3-2 along party-lines, with the Democrats saying they had not time to examine Strach's credentials and thought there should be a longer transition for Bartlett, who was appointed by Democrats. The move came just several days after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory named a new elections board, a move that typically occurs when there is a change in political parties.

Strach had worked for the state elections campaign staff the past 13 where she was heavily involved in a wide-range of investigations of such political figures as former House Speaker Jim Black, former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, former state Reps. Thomas Wright and Michael Decker and former Governors Mike Easley and Bev Perdue. All but Decker are Democrats.

Civitas, State Board of Elections trade shots over voting rules

A conservative group has accused state elections director Gary Bartlett of lying in a comment he made to The News & Observer; Bartlett fired back, standing by the accuracy of his comment and characterizing the criticism is part of an ongoing effort to wrongly portray oversight of voter registration and early voting as broken.

NC elections chief predicts dropoff in voting compared to 2008

Gary Bartlett, the top elections official in North Carolina, has predicted that overall turnout will fall just short of the percentage recorded in 2008, according to The Associated Press.

Bartlett said Monday he expects about 69 percent of the more than 6.6 million registered voters would cast ballots when all is said and done. Four years ago, 69.53 percent of those registered voted, which set a record for recent North Carolina electoral history. So far, about 41 percent of the state's registered voters have cast votes, short of the 42 percent who cast ballots before Election Day in 2008.

Dalton files complaint against McCrory; Republican rejects 'desperate' charges

Democrat Walter Dalton's campaign filed a campaign finance complaint Wednesday alleging Pat McCrory didn't properly pay for campaign flights and whether it amounted to an illegal corporate contribution.

The Republican's campaign outright rejected the claims and provided documentation that it believes supports its claim. State elections chief Gary Bartlett said his agency received the complaint but the agency doesn't have time to investigate until after next week's election.

The Dalton complaint focuses on private flights for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to North Carolina for separate McCrory campaign events. 

Morning Roundup: McCrory goes moderate, a new Goldman police report

Republican Pat McCrory continued his moderate transformation during Wednesday's debate, shedding his tea party and conservative cape as he said legislation restricting abortions and cracking down on illegal immigration won't appear on his agenda if elected. At the same time, Democrat Walter Dalton made a bold pledge to lower the employment rate as much as 3 percent in his first year. Pundits say the debate isn't the game changer Dalton needed. Read more here and see four fact checks from the debate.

More political headlines:

--In a new development that raises questions about Debra Goldman's judgment, another police report surfaced showing that the GOP state auditor candidate called 911 after a fellow board member yelled at her during a heated Wake school board meeting.

Long lines prompt state to ask counties to consider extending early voting

With persistent long lines, state election officials are asking counties to consider extending the early voting times and days.

"The wait time at some sites is as long as 2 hours. County Boards should take immediate steps to alleviate these delays and facilitate a more efficient voting process for North Carolina voters," wrote Gary Bartlett, the state's elections chief, in a memorandum sent Monday to all 100 county boards of elections.

Morning Roundup: Elections chief seeks to settle insurance race dispute

The sleepy race to decide who will serve as state Insurance Commissioner was shaken up a couple weeks ago by allegations of campaign violations. On Monday, Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, said the matter is likely to be resolved administratively rather than the more serious step of taking board action.

Wayne Goodwin, the Democratic incumbent, had accused Republican opponent Mike Causey of violating an array of campaign laws. Causey admitted some mistakes were made, but insisted they were unintentional and denied the most serious of Goodwin’s allegations. Full story here.

More politics below:

--See a photo gallery from Joe Biden's visit to North Carolina.

State elections chief: Runoff election turnout may reach low point

The turnout for Tuesday’s primary runoff is on pace to be the lowest in history and will almost certainly not top 3 percent, said Gary Bartlett, the state’s elections chief. Bartlett had hoped for about a 5 percent turnout.

Just six counties – mostly those affected by Congressional races near Charlotte – are reporting better than a 3 percent turnout. Only 72 people had voted in Hyde County as of early afternoon, 148 in Clay and 67 in Columbus.

That many people “would show up in the first 20 minutes of a presidential election,” Bartlett said, adding that just one-third of votes are usually cast after 2 p.m. “What’s lacking is a top of the ticket like a gubernatorial or U.S. Senate race,” Bartlett said. “It’s really sad to see the turnout being what it is.”

Bartlett said the runoff election will cost about $6 million to 8 million.

Advocacy group appeals dismissal of voter fraud

A Wake County advocacy group filed a legal complaint Friday appealing a decision by the Wake County Board of Elections to dismiss the bulk of its complaint about non-citizen voters.

The Voter Integrity Project wants to remove 528 Wake County residents from the voter registration list because it believes they are not U.S. citizens and not eligible to vote. It identified residents dismissed from jury duty as being a non-citizen and cross-referenced the list with voter registration data.

But a State Board of Elections inquiry using Division of Motor Vehicles data found that 510 voters were indeed U.S. citizens and the Wake board dismissed those complaints. The remaining 18 people whose citizenship were not verified by the state are set to appear before a full hearing Aug. 21 in Raleigh.

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