Source: Carolina Public Press
In a unanimous vote, two members of the Surry County Board of Elections were removed for refusing to certify the 2022 election results.
Jerry Forestieri and Timothy DeHaan were dismissed by the N.C. State Board of Elections during a hearing held earlier this year, after they were found to have “violated their duties as county board members to comply with laws as they exist,” according to the BOE press release.
The pair declined to certify local election results and circulated a letter that called the 2022 election, “illegal”.
According to Fox8, the letter stated incorrectly that a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs had stopped the implementation of the voter ID law. That was a decision made in state court, upheld by the state Supreme Court and then reheard earlier this month.
Following the letter’s release, the BOE found “evidence of a violation of election law, duties imposed on board members, and/or participation in irregularities or incompetence to discharge the duties of the office. In addition, Orange County resident and long-time voting rights activist Bob Hall filed complaints against the county board members for their removal.
“Jerry Forestieri and Tim DeHaan are both saying they do not accept the legitimacy of election law administered by the NC State Board of Elections or the legitimacy of the federal court’s rulings – which are statements that directly conflict with their oath of office,” Hall wrote in his complaint.
“The letter begins by saying the ‘elections in Surry County were conducted in full compliance with applicable laws per NCSBE’ (with one possible exception involving an election worker), but it ends by attacking ‘our election practices’ as untrustworthy and producing results that are not ‘credible.’
Jerry Forestieri and Tim DeHaan’s actions are just one of many examples of election deniers popping up in the county. However, community members and voting advocates are hoping to push back against a national network of election deniers who have been making inroads in Surry County.
“Most people expect Board of Elections members to, as their oath indicates, execute their duties as members of the Surry County Board of Elections,” Michella Huff, Surry County Board of Elections Director told Carolina Public Press. “And those duties are to act in a nonpartisan manner and follow the law.”
As the 2024 election draws near, and state Republicans alluding to overturning elections laws, voting rights groups are advocating for North Carolinians, particularly in rural areas, to be aware of the political process in their local communities, as those on the city- and county-level can determine the funding local election officials have to ensure fair and accessible voting.
“It is essential to stay aware of what your local elections, local politics are looking like,” Jean-Patrick Grillet, a researcher for Democracy NC, told Carolina Public Press. “Being very aware of your county commissioners, in particular, because they’re determining budgets for elections. If we’re not engaging in a fair process to decide those things in 2024, then we won’t have a democratic outcome in the long run”.
Read more at Carolina Public Press