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Voter fraud case offers no records

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Federal, state and local officials won't reveal the party affiliation of a Nash County man sent to prison last week on charges of voter fraud.

Roberto Hernandez-Cuarenta, 57, was sentenced to four months in prison on two counts of voting by an alien. He is a Mexican citizen who has lived legally in the United States for more than two decades. Prosecutors said Hernandez-Cuarenta voted in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections.

Hernandez-Cuarenta's party affiliation wasn't used in court so it won't be released, said Don Connelly, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

It wasn't immediately clear how prosecutors could win a successful conviction without entering into evidence Hernandez-Cuarenta's voting record, which includes party affiliation.

Hernandez-Cuarenta lives on U.S. 264A in Zebulon. A small portion of Zebulon sits within southern Nash County, where Hernandez-Cuarenta was registered to vote.

Staff at the Nash County Board of Elections was unable to find Hernandez-Cuarenta's voting records on Friday.

Patrick Ganonn, the public information officer for the State Board of Elections, said he couldn't locate the records either.

Voters in North Carolina can be registered as a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party — which was added in March — or unaffiliated. The political affiliation of a registered voter is a public record in North Carolina.

Voter fraud in the form of immigrants casting illegal votes is a continuing political lightning rod. President Donald Trump made claims two years ago and  has repeated several times that vast numbers of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 presidential election.

While Hernandez-Cuarenta, a seasonal farm worker, has legal and permanent resident status, he isn't a U.S. citizen, according to federal prosecutors.

Evidence presented in U.S. District Court in Greenville last week during sentencing showed Hernandez-Cuarenta was granted a Special Agricultural Worker application in June 1992.

The case was investigated by the State Board of Elections — which couldn't find Hernandez-Cuarenta's records when requested by the Telegram — and the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Investigation Office in Raleigh.

Federal prosecutors have kept a tight lid on the case. In May, U.S. Magistrate Kimberly Swank ordered the preliminary findings in Hernandez-Cuarenta's case to be sealed, acting on a motion by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Hernandez-Cuarenta cast votes for the office of president, vice president and U.S. House of Representatives, said Robert Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. President Trump appointed Higdon to the post in October 2017.

“The right to vote is a precious privilege available only to citizens of the United States,” Higdon said. “When a non-citizen votes in a federal election, it serves to dilute and devalue the vote of American citizens and places the decision-making authority of the American electorate in the hands of those who have no right to make those choices. My office will do its part to protect the rights of every American citizen to cast their vote freely and to have it counted fairly.”

There are no pending applications or petitions on behalf of Hernandez-Cuarenta for U.S. citizenship. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Ontjes is handling the case for the government.

Hernandez-Cuarenta's attorney, Andrew McCoppin of McCoppin & Associates, didn't immediately return messages left at his Raleigh office. No one answered the door Friday at Hernandez-Cuarenta's given residence.

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