Purging voters with a little help from the feds

by Kirk Ross

From the people who brought you massive purges of voter rolls in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere, some helpful suggestions about North Carolina’s electoral system. Seems the feds think we have too many voters on the rolls and we ought to get to whacking some folks off.

That helpful federal advice comes from the Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Division, which last time we checked was having a little trouble explaining why some of its executives decided to violate long-running DOJ policy and intervene ahead of the vote in places with close elections.

State Auditor Les Merritt also got into the act. The auditor’s office sounded an alarm about the issue throwing out numbers and raising such a fuss that it delayed Senate passage of a bill designed to make it easier for people to vote.

Now the State Board of Elections is disputing some of the Merritt’s findings, which are as yet unreleased. In a 10-page rebuttal, elections board chair Gary Bartlett stopped just short of calling the auditor clueless about how the state registration and voting system works.

Democratic activists are starting to speak up because of concerns that the state may become the scene of the same kind of “voter-integrity” efforts out of the Gonzales Justice Department witnessed elsewhere. (First clue: suddenly, a whole lotta noise about voter fraud.) Some Dems, though, see one silver lining. It must mean the Tar Heel State is in play in ’08.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Southern Studies’ Facing South blog, the Charlotte Observer and the N&O’s new Under the Dome blog are all hitting this story hard. If Merritt hasn’t gotten them already, the public records requests for any e-mails back and forth with DOJ are probably just around the corner.


GOP gubernatorial candidate Sen. Fred Smith, he of the larger-than-life billboard series along US 70, has penned his first book. The subject, of course, is Fred Smith.

A Little Extra Effort: Hard Work and Straight Talk in a Sound Bite World, is as detailed and as frank as a 165-page self-published autobiography gets. It’s also likely to boost the OP research operations of Smith’s opponent including those delving into his business deals and what he refers to as “a messy divorce.”

Smith also lays into Gov. Easley pretty good.

“I’ve never seen Mike Easley in the General Assembly except when he walks in and gives a speech. I’ve twice been to the Governor’s Mansion. That’s my entire contact as a three-term senator with the leader of the state. Governor Easley is not engaged in making the public policy of this state. That’s not acceptable. North Carolina needs a chief executive who understands the first, simple rule of leadership: show up.”


And while, Extra Effort is certainly more than a soundbite, don’t worry – he spares not the platitudes and demonstrates acute attention to the obvious.

“Running an organization isn’t easy, though. It requires long, hard meetings. It takes getting down into the details. It takes rigorous followthrough [sic]. It demands extra effort.”

Whew. So will reading this thing.


Not to be outdone by Billboard Fred, Gov. Mike Easley’s staff did a little touch-up on the governor’s biography in a recent state-sponsored history of the Governors. UNC History prof Harry Watson told the News & Observer recently that the passage reads like a PR document. It should. Most of it was re-written by the governor’s press staff. But after the flap over the bio ensued, even the press office suggested it might not be a good idea to wait for his term to expire.

Kirk Ross travels the state for and writes about state governance at He can be reached at