RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – North Carolina’s elections board announced Friday that they will fight federal subpoenas seeking millions of voting documents and ballots, even after prosecutors delayed a pending deadline to fulfill their demands until early next year.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement voted unanimously Friday morning to direct state attorneys to work to block the subpoenas issued last week to the state board and local boards in 44 eastern counties.
U.S. Attorney Bobby Higdon in Raleigh, whose office issued the subpoenas, hasn’t said specifically why immigration enforcement investigators working with a grand jury empanelled in Wilmington are seeking the information.
Two weeks ago, Higdon announced charges against 19 non-U.S. citizens for illegal voting, of which more than half were indicted through a Wilmington grand jury.
The subpoenas ordered the documents, which the state board estimated would exceed 20 million pages, be provided by Sept. 25 at a time when election administrators prepped for the midterm elections. Requested documents included voted ballots, voter registration and absentee ballot forms and poll books, some going back to early 2010.
The elections board is comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans and one independent voter. Their vote on Friday came a day after U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich wrote the board backing off the original Sept. 25 deadline because of the pending midterm election.
“In our conversations you noted the difficulty that Boards of Elections may have in responding to the subpoenas by the deadline set in those subpoenas due to the press of business as final preparations are made for the upcoming November election.” Kielmanovich said in the letter. “We understand and appreciate that concern and want to do nothing to impede those preparations or to affect participation in or the outcome of those elections.”
Kielmanovich extended the deadline to January 2019, and also suggested there may be room to narrow the scope of the subpoenas.
The letter also touched on a prominent fear in the minds of many of North Carolina’s approximately 6.6 million voters. Kielmanovich instructed the board to redact all voter information that may connect voters to their selection of candidates.
“In other words, we want to prevent disclosure of any voter’s actual choice of candidates in any race,” he said.
But the board members were not mollified. They want to see the subpoenas tossed all together.
After the elections board decided to fight the subpoena, Kielmanovich sent it a second letter, reminding the board and elections officials in the state’s 44 counties to refrain from destroying the documents.