N.C. elections board reviewing video showing election irregularities after WBTV investigation
WADESBORO, N.C. (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections said Friday it was reviewing video taken inside the Anson County Board of Elections building showing people voting.
The video, which was first published by WBTV on Thursday, shows the husband of a candidate for local office, among others, repeatedly approaching voters in the parking lot and escorting them into the voting booth.
John Montgomery, whose wife Dannie Montgomery was the democratic candidate for register of deeds in this election, is seen on seven of the ten videos reviewed by WBTV.
Three other videos shows an unidentified woman escorting voters to the booth.
One video appears to show Montgomery marking a voter’s ballot while the voter stands back with his hands by his side and in his pockets.
North Carolina law says voters may receive assistance from a non-family member only if they have one of a specific list of disabilities.
Dozens of complaints were filed alleging improper voter assistance by Montgomery and others during early voting but video of the activity didn’t surface until after the election.
Previously, the county’s elections director and the chairman of the county board of elections both denied there was any video showing the area inside the early voting location.
They continued to deny any video existed on Thursday, even after a WBTV reporter told them he had the video.
Video from the first days of early voting was deleted after a request for the video from a WBTV reporter on October 28.
The earliest any video from early voting could have been erased was October 29. Anson County attorney Scott Forbes said on Friday that county staff didn’t take any steps to preserve any video until at least November 2. The video system retains footage for two weeks, he said.
“Some of the security camera had been overwritten because there was a delay in that,” Forbes said, unable to explain why elections officials didn’t take steps to preserve the video after the request from WBTV on October 28. “I can’t speak to that at this point I don’t know why.”
The Anson County BOE voted to certify the results of the 2020 election on Friday morning, despite the new questioned prompted by the video footage.
Forbes said neither he nor any of the board members had seen the video footage before WBTV’s story. The device containing the video was given to US Congressman Dan Bishop (NC-9), who also requested the video, after county staff could not retrieve the video off of the device.
“I’m sure the county board of elections will investigate appropriately now that they have gone through the canvassing and they have properly, they’ll properly have time to investigate it,” Forbes said.
He said he thought it was appropriate for the board to certify the results of the election before starting an investigation.
At the conclusion of Friday’s board meeting, during a time reserved for public comments, Bishop stood to address the board but was, at first, told he could not speak by the board’s chairman.
The chairman reversed his decision after consulting with Forbes, the attorney.
In his speech, Bishop outlined the efforts he’d taken to address the complaints of improper voter assistance during early voting and said he had to take the county to court in order to obtain the video.
“It will not do to ignore this or cover it up or to pretend things do not exist,” Bishop told the board.
In a statement released Friday afternoon in response to repeated question from WBTV, a spokesman for the NCSBE said the following:
“We sent an investigator to Anson County and the investigator did not observe illegal activity at that time. We also sent out a news release to remind the public about laws and rules pertaining to assistance to voters. We recently received additional evidence and the Investigations Division is reviewing it. Because these events could come before the State Board, we are declining further comment at this time.”
It is not clear whether NCSBE investigators had requested the full video from Anson County officials since Bishop returned the storage device on Friday.
The NCSBE had not seen any video from Anson County as of Wednesday.
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