DA asks help in election-fraud probe

First Posted: 4/4/2014

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County District Attorney’s Office is asking for the public’s help as it conducts a criminal investigation requested by the state Board of Elections into the all of county’s 2013 municipal elections.

Johnson Britt said that the investigation will focus on one-stop voting in Pembroke and potentially Lumberton.

The investigation will be led by Erich Hackney, an investigator for the District Attorney’s office and a Lumberton city councilman who was uncontested in the municipal election.

Hackney said that he met Thursday with top state Board of Elections officials and they indicated, as did Britt, that his position as a Lumberton councilman does not disqualify him from conducting the investigation, which he said most likely will extend several months.

“As such, I am asking for the public’s assistance in contacting Mr. Hackney with any information that may be helpful, specifically as to any irregular or fraudulent activity or false statements made in an effort to influence any of the 2013 municipal elections,” Britt said in the statement. “This includes any persons who may have been threatened, harassed, intimidated or coerced to vote when in fact they did not reside in the respective town or city in which they voted, or, were given, promised, requested or accepted at any time, before or after the election, anything of value whatsoever in return for their vote.”

Hackney said that he has already received a tremendous amount of information and has developed a tailored form that he will use in recording information that people bring to his office or call in by phone. Hackney can be reached at 910-272-6014.

G.L. Pridgen, director of Robeson County’s board of elections, said that his office has received some complaints about fraud and voting irregularities.

“We turn these complaints over to the state Board of Elections in Raleigh and let the state decide if if these complaints are serious enough to turn over to the DA,” Pridgen said. “In fact, I’ve been giving the people who complain the number in Raleigh and let them make the call and let them explain their concerns directly.”

Steve Stone, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said that the only role the local board will play in the investigation is to provide information the District Attorney’s Office, sate Board of Elections, and any other entity actively involved in the investigations.

“We don’t participate in the investigation except supplying data that the state or other entities need,” he said. “We stand ready to do that … . We will assist in any ways necessary to make sure elections are accurate and fair. Justice will prevail.”

The state Board of Elections in December called for a new election for the Pembroke Town Council because it determined that November’s election was tainted with voting irregularities and possible instances of fraud, mostly having to do with voters not meeting residency requirements. At the same time, the state board asked that all accusations of election fraud be turned over to the District Attorney’s Office.

The do-over election, held March 11, flipped the results of the previous one.

Theresa Locklear and Channing Jones won two four-year contested council seats that were held by Allen Dial and Larry Brooks. Dial, who was seeking his fifth term, came in third in the six-way race for the two seats. Brooks did not seek re-election.

Former Councilman Larry McNeill defeated Mitch Lowry in the run to complete the last two years of the term of the late Robert Williamson. McNeill, Locklear and Jones will join the council before its meeting on Monday.

Local elections officials said the do-over election went smoothly.

The investigation will apparently overlap with the next election in Robeson County, the May 6 primary that will include countywide races and state races.