The New Hanover County Board of Elections unanimously voted to launch an investigation into the questionable county “robocalls” that went out on Primary Election Day last week. Yesterday, board members declared their intention to determine the identify of the caller—who claimed to be outgoing County Commissioner Brian Berger, urging citizens to vote for fellow commissioner and then-U.S. House candidate Woody White, as well as state Senate contender Michael Lee—and determine whether a practical joke was at play, or if state election laws were purposely violated. The Board’s chief concern is whether the calls were an act of voter suppression.
The board members will start by questioning Berger and the robocall vendor. Following a complete investigation, the board will submit its findings to the state Board of Elections, and--if election law violations turn out to be at play--the state attorney general. This is according to board Chairman John Ferrante, who notes that North Carolina has a history of nefarious robocalls. He cites a 2008 Wake County incident that left many voters confused about whether or not they were registered to vote.
"I don’t know if this type of thing rises to that level, but if you do the research on what robocalls are and what the potential is, the good ones provide good information. And if they’re done right in accordance with the statutes, they can help voters. But they also have the potential to be very nasty and to suppress voters. Or to confuse voters. We’ll see, we’ll see what the future brings."
There is no timeline for this investigation. Should the Board of Elections decide to involve law enforcement, Ferrante says District Attorney Ben David has pledged to coordinate such resources. In the case the Board unearths violations and the state does nothing, Ferrante says statutes allow the county to request that the Superior Court appoint a special prosecutor to the case.