House Freedom Caucus Stymied In Voting Machine Probe

By David Bass
Carolina Journal

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, is blocking attempts by the N.C. House Freedom Caucus to inspect voting machines for possible irregularities.

Republicans are crying foul.

“What we actually seek to show the public is that the equipment in North Carolina is not a problem,” said Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, at a press conference on Thursday, July 15. “We seek transparency in the election process. The Freedom Caucus believes that every legal vote should be counted but not a single illegal vote should be counted.”

The Freedom Caucus — 25 House members and chaired by Kidwell — is seeking to inspect two voting systems in randomly selected precincts to ensure modems are not inside, which could allow for election results to be changed remotely.

Brinson Bell responded to Kidwell with a blistering letter denying the request. Her office subsequently contacted all county boards of elections directing them to not allow Freedom Caucus members to inspect voting equipment.

State Board of Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell, at a hearing in an N.C. Senate committee. photo by Maya Reagan, Carolina Journal

“The State Board has received no credible evidence that the certified results are not accurate, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have stated that the 2020 general election in North Carolina was conducted fairly,” Brinson Bell wrote. “We will not allow misinformation about voting systems or any other aspect of elections to dictate our priorities in administering elections.”

“The request for inspection of field systems was to show the public that our State Board of Elections had cooperated with the Freedom Caucus and had nothing to hide,” Kidwell said at the news conference. “Now we have been denied access to these systems, and a wall with a threat of lawyers has been placed in our way by Ms. Brinson Bell.”

Kidwell said his caucus would take the necessary action to inspect the machines. He cited general statutes that direct state agencies and departments to furnish “all information and all data within their possession, or ascertainable from their records” in response to a request from a state lawmaker.

Kidwell said the manufacturer of most of North Carolina’s voting machines, ES&S, has been cooperative and compliant with lawmakers’ requests in the investigation.

“When we started this project, we were impressed by the cooperation of the State Board of Elections and its staff,” Kidwell said. “Now, we’ve hit a wall. That wall they are seemingly hiding behind. Ms. Bell, tear down that wall — unless you have something to hide.”

In an emailed statement to Carolina Journal, Noah Grant, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, wrote, “Election officials across North Carolina have full confidence in the election systems used in this state, and full confidence in the 2020 general election results. A series of audits and a statewide recount after the election confirmed the totals. There is no evidence that the certified results are not accurate, and election officials from both sides of the aisle have stated that North Carolina’s election was conducted fairly.”

Dr. Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, noted that part of lawmakers’ role is oversight of state bureaucracies, including the Board of Elections.

“Brinson Bell’s letter states concern about ‘unknown, unauthorized, or inexpert actors’ having access to election equipment,” Jackson said. “Legislation are certainly not ‘unknown’ or ‘unauthorized.’ If her concern is protecting voting equipment, Brinson Bell shouldn’t obfuscate. Instead, the State Board could allow handling of election equipment to be done by state or county election officials while legislators observe and ask questions. Cooler heads should prevail so that we can have legislative oversight without compromising election security.”

The skirmish has opened up another front in the ongoing partisan war between the GOP and Brinson Bell, who is a registered Democrat supported by the Democrat-controlled Board of Elections. The board recently voted along party lines to rehire Brinson Bell for another two-year term.

This session, lawmakers are running several bills meant to shore up election integrity, including a measure that would outlaw collusive settlements and three bills that would shift election law on absentee ballots and prohibits the private funding of elections administration, among other changes.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Again the Republican’s in the GA are trying to invent something that never happened. Maybe they’re trying to cover their a**es because they were the ones cought trying to rig the election by harvesting ballots. A bunch of hypocrites.

    • Who paid you for making such a wild claim? You have no credible way of knowing if there was fraud in the election. An election in which the rules for voting were illegally changed by the Democrat controlled election board without approval of the elected legislature.
      If the Democrats had followed the rules, questions may not have arisen.
      Now we citizens need an answer to the credibility of this states election results. If you disagree, why?

      • McRae Dowless, remember the guy that republicans like to hire to harvest ballots.

        “ Dowless has previously been charged with numerous federal crimes related to a ballot-harvesting scheme he’s accused of running in both 2016 and 2018 for Republican candidates for the 9th Congressional District, which stretches along North Carolina’s southern border from Charlotte into rural southeastern North Carolina.

        Through those investigations, he faces charges of felony obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury, solicitation to commit perjury and unlawful possession of an absentee ballot.”

        The republicans need proof of illegal voting or the investigation shouldn’t begin. Democrats, or anyone for that matter, don’t need to “prove a negative” or “prove non-existence”. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. Would you like the police to start an investigation of you for child pornography with no evidence just because someone thinks ill of you? They need to offer evidence/proof beforehand.

    • If the BOE doesn’t have anything to hide why not let the GA look? Only guilty parties try to avoid investigations.

  2. Great job news team! Let’s post a red herring article about elected officials who have been and will be candidates for (re)election being LEGALLY FORBIDDEN under the NC GENERAL STATUTES from being able to handle the machines that will tabulate the winners and losers in THEIR races.

    Then, let’s NOT post an article about the Republican-led General Assembly holding a midnight session to jam through an energy bill with HUGE implications, with VERY little debate, a bill that even the Republican sponsor said he is not sure of the effects after 10 years.

  3. Democrats blocking and hindering voting integrity investigations can mean only one thing.

  4. Maybe Republicans should stop worrying about illegal voting that they have zero evidence for and stop hiring operatives like McRae Dowless to go steal ballots for their opponents.

  5. More like a ‘cya’ move by Bell. If everything is on the up and up, then why block the request?

  6. Cya move? Read what I posted before you posted. It is State Law that candidates (which all elected officials are) cannot have direct access to machines that they have a vested stake (winning re-election from the people who will be voting for or against them on said machines) in. Republicans all love to talk about “law and order,” but it seems the only laws they like to abide by are the ones they are currently creating, while ignoring the laws we already have on the books.

    Look up “red herring” in the dictionary. The republicans are doing this to make people like you think the same thing. They don’t care about truth, they care about power, and if they get enough people to say “oh yeah, golly gee, sure sounds like an easy request, what do they have to hide?” the likelier it is for them to seize power in 2022 and 24. Be smarter. Democracy needs you to be.

    • I see. So, how would your overinflated ego define “people like me?” Probably using the same lib jabs, nothing original and boring.. What I find amusing is that your side circumvents the law to get changes made for elections all in the name of safety and try to block any kind of audit, etc.. Why block the attempts if everything is legit?
      By the way, the GA is complicit in this because they allowed these changes to be made without a fight. They shirked their responsibility for whatever reason. Oh, thanks for clearing up what an elected official is- I thought that it was a dog catcher.

  7. Is there any background information available on the credentials of the company (or individuals) the Freedom Caucus would be hiring to undertake the inspection of the machines? Who would pay for these inspections? After the inspections are completed, would a publicly available report on the results be published?

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