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By Erin Smith

Bladen County Election Officials, along with election officials in 43 other countries in Eastern North Carolina, received a federal grand jury subpoena recently from the United States Department of Justice and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted on Friday to request the North Carolina Attorney General to “quash the subpoenas.”

Bladen County Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw confirmed Bladen County is one of 44 counties who were served with the Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas. The subpoena received by the Bladen County Board of Elections requests “all poll books, e-poll books, voting records, and/or voter authorization documents and executed official ballots including absentee ballots from the period of August 30, 2013 through August 30, 2018.”

“No records at this point have been released. We’re waiting on guidance from the State,” said Shaw.

She explained some of the documents requested under the federal subpoena are documents which Board of Election staff are not allowed to release under NC General Statute 163.

Shaw said Attorney Leslie Johnson of the Johnson Law Firm, who represents Bladen County, did issue a letter of response to the US Attorney’s Office acknowledging receipt of the subpoena and agreeing that County Board of Elections staff will preserve the documents under the subpoena.

In addition to issuing subpoenas to the County Boards of Elections, they have also issued a subpoena to the State Board of Elections.

In a release from the NC State Board of Elections (SBE), the SBE Vice-Chairman Joshua Malcolm said, “The subpoena we’ve received was and remains overly broad, unreasonable, vague, and clearly impacts significant interest of our voters.”

The subpoenas were issued by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The subpoena sets a deadline of September 25th for compliance; however, Patrick Gannon, a spokesperson for the NC State Board of Elections, said, “The U.S. Attorneys office has said it would move the deadline for documents to January. Also, the State Board voted on Friday to challenge the subpoenas in court.”

Gannon added the subpoenas will not affect the upcoming General Election in November due to the change in the deadline for compliance. “So simply put, we don’t believe it should have too much of an effect on the ability of county elections officials to do their jobs in the short term,” said Gannon.

The subpoenas come following the filing of criminal information against a Mexican national, Alma Ilzet Mar Escalante, for voting in the 2016 election in Bladen County by an alien. Also, 19 foreign nationals are also facing federal charges for illegal voting in the 2016 elections in North Carolina. There is no indication contained in the subpoena documents indicating if these subpoenas relate to these cases.

The counties included in the subpoenas are: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Vance, Wake, Warren, Washington, Wayne, and Wilson County Board of Elections.