North Carolina Attorney General Declines to Prosecute Mark Meadows for Voter Fraud

    December 31, 2022, 09:00 AM

    On December 30, 2022, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office formally announced that it would not prosecute Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff for President Trump, for voter fraud. In March 2022, it was reported that questions about Meadows’ voter registration were under investigation by the State Board of Elections. Following review by the District Attorney for Macon County, the case was referred to the North Carolina Department of Justice for further investigation due to potential conflicts of interest with the DA’s Office.

    Upon receipt of the case, the Attorney General’s Office forwarded the case to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for review which concluded in November 2022. The case declination summary from the NC Attorney General’s Office indicates that the SBI investigation and a number of other materials were considered before ultimately concluding not to pursue criminal charges against Meadows. Ultimately, the issue centered on whether Meadows and his wife properly voted in Macon County as opposed to Transylvania County where he was previously registered and owned a home. Media reports alleged that in 2020, three weeks before the voter registration deadline, Meadows and his wife’s address were switched to a mobile home in rural Scaly Mountain, located in Macon County that he did not own and likely never actually lived.

    The Attorney General’s case summary first noted that, pursuant to statute, as a federal employee living in the District of Columbia, Meadows maintained his North Carolina residency for voting purposes and was otherwise consistent with his state of residency which included filing 2020 taxes in NC and listing NC for his state withholdings and receiving mail at an NC post office box. While the State’s investigation found that Meadows did not change the address on his license and was “almost certainly never physically present at the Scaly Mountain address,” evidence showed that the family’s Transylvania County home was sold in March 2020 before a lease was signed for the Scaly Mountain property in September 2020 several days before the voting address was updated. Further, Mrs. Meadows and the couple’s children were present at the Scaly Mountain mobile home after the lease date and the couple did not vote in any other county, state, or the District of Columbia.

    The weight of the collected evidence led the NC Attorney General’s Office to determine that it was unlikely that the State could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Meadows engaged in voter fraud and announced its decision to decline prosecution.

    The Meadows case offers a look at the process for a voter voter fraud investigation in North Carolina. The following Frequently Asked Questions should provide additional information. If you are charged with or become the target of an investigation into voter, election, or campaign finance fraud the best step is to immediately retain an experienced attorney.

    How does a voting fraud investigation originate?

    While local district attorney’s offices have the authority to seek charges if they become independently aware of possible wrongdoing, most elections law violations originate with the North Carolina Board of Elections (SBE) when a complaint is received. Complaints can be filed by local election boards, watchdog group, candidates and political parties, or private citizens.

    What happens when the NC State Board of Election receives a complaint about possible elections law violations?

    When the SBE receives information regarding potential voting and election irregularities, an initial staff review is conducted. The initial review is focused on whether a case meets a sufficient number of “priority areas” which can include whether wrongdoing occurred by election officials, the level or degree of alleged conduct, and the risk of harm caused by the alleged misconduct. If insufficient priority issues are found and further action is not determined to be necessary, a recommendation is made to SBE General counsel and the case is closed. However, if the initial review identifies sufficient priority issues, then the SBE Investigations Division will open a case and assign a case number.

    Cases investigated by SBE include fraudulent voting, election interference, vote harvesting or buying, organized election fraud, and security breaches. An investigator will typically use informal means of obtaining evidence, when possible, which will likely include contacting the subject of the investigation to request an interview. An individual under investigation by the SBE cannot be compelled to speak with investigators, however, SBE has subpoena power to summon other witnesses or require production of certain records.

    At the conclusion of the formal investigation, the SBE will decide whether the case will be referred for criminal prosecution. SBE does not have the authority to prosecute criminal cases on its own. Cases not referred for prosecution can result in written warnings that may require election law educational programs.

    What happens when the State Board of Elections refers a case for prosecution?

    Upon referral by SBE for criminal prosecution, the case is generally forwarded to the district attorney’s office in the county where the potential election violation occurred, although certain violations by state-wide elected officials are required by statute to be referred to the Wake County District Attorney. At that point, the DA can seek charges based on the results of the SBE’s investigation or, more commonly, supplement the investigation. Often, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is asked to review the case before a prosecutor chooses to proceed with charges or seek an indictment. Because some elections violations can be politically charged and conflicts of interest arise, a district attorney may request that the case be adopted by the Attorney General’s Office who may have a special prosecutor get involved. A referred case can be declined or prosecuted at the prosecutor’s discretion.

    What if I am contacted by investigators about election or voting fraud allegations?

    If you learn that you are the target of an elections violation investigation, it is highly recommended that you retain an experienced attorney immediately and not speak with investigators until you have consulted with counsel. This is true whether the investigation is still being considered by SBE or if a referral for prosecution has already been made. An individual can be contacted by investigators in person, over the phone, or through a written notice. Often, investigators will want to schedule an interview and a lawyer can help you decide whether or not you should speak with investigators and, if so, help establish safeguards to better protect your interests.