RALEIGH — The N.C. State Board of Elections is investigating hundreds of cases in which voters appear to have cast ballots in two states during the 2012 presidential election.
Elections Director Kim Strach told state lawmakers at an oversight hearing Wednesday that her staff has identified 765 registered North Carolina voters whose first names, last names, birthdates and last four digits of their Social Security numbers appear to match information for voters in another state.
Each case will now require further investigation to determine whether voter fraud occurred.
"Could it be voter fraud? Sure, it could be voter fraud," Strach said. "Could it be an error on the part of a precinct person choosing the wrong person's name in the first place? It could be. We're looking at each of these individual cases."
A law passed last year by the Republican-dominated state legislature required elections staff to check information for North Carolina's more than 6.5 million voters against a database containing information for 101 million voters in 28 states.
The cross-check found listings for 35,570 North Carolina voters whose first names, last names and dates of birth match those of voters who voted in other states. However, in those cases middle names and Social Security numbers were not matched.
The analysis also found 155,692 registered North Carolina voters whose information matched voters registered in other states but who most recently registered or voted elsewhere. Strach said those were most likely voters who moved out of state without notifying their local boards of elections.
Strach said there could also be about 50 people statewide who died before election day but were recorded as casting a ballot. In several past cases, instances of so-called zombie voters turned out to be the result of clerical errors.
Republicans leaders immediately touted the preliminary report as evidence they were justified in approving sweeping elections changes last year that include requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls, cutting days from the period for early voting and ending a popular civics program that encouraged high school students to pre-register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued a joint statement Wednesday on what they termed as the "alarming evidence."
"While we are alarmed to hear evidence of widespread voter error and fraud, we are encouraged to see the common-sense law passed to ensure voters are who they say they are is working," said the statement. "These findings should put to rest ill-informed claims that problems don't exist and help restore the integrity of our elections process."
However, other states using the cross-check system have yielded relatively few criminal prosecutions for voter fraud once the cases were thoroughly investigated.
Only 11 people were prosecuted on allegations of double-voting as a result of the 15 states that performed similar database checks following the 2010 elections, according to data compiled by elections officials in Kansas, where the cross-check program originated.
Bob Hall, director of the non-profit group Democracy North Carolina, cautioned officials not to jump to conclusions based on the preliminary database check.
"I know there is more than one Bob Hall with my birth date who lives among the 28 states researched," Hall said. "There may be cases of fraud, but the true scale and conspiracy involved need to be examined more closely before those with political agendas claim they've proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."