Did Jamie Lassiter SCREW George Cleveland?

The veteran conservative Republican legislator in Raleigh seems to think so:

[…] Not realizing Lassiter’s letter was unknown to him, I casually mentioned it to Rep. Cleveland and he exploded. “Jamie Lassiter was the lobbyist who helped me draft that bill,” he said, “and all this time, she was stabbing me in the back.” After stewing a moment, he flashed a wry grin and said, “I think I’ll haul her fanny back in here and see what that young lady has to say for herself.” […]

We’ve heard quite a bit about Mrs. Lassiter, her marital drama, and her reported interactions with NC House speaker Timmy Biscuitville. 

Now,  the good folks at The Voter Integrity Project are offering up one more interesting story featuring the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Lassiter:

Last week’s passage of HB 747 brought an unsatisfying end to the 10-year battle Voter Integrity Project had waged, joined by NC Representative George Cleveland, to enact a law forcing North Carolina’s Clerks of Court to share jury disqualification information with election officials.

Far from “spiking the football,” I wanted to take a moment to help newcomers to the election integrity movement learn how long it took to get a straightforward piece of election reform enacted into law. I’ll warn you up-front that it was often frustrating, but it proves how persistance eventually pays off . . . sorta.

Here’s the background: In 2012, VIP co-founder John Pizzo and I learned that NC’s courts regularly disqualified jury prospects for four reasons that directly affect the voter rolls: a) felony status; b) death; c) moving out of the county; or d) non-US citizenship. That year, we obtained a treasure trove of court records and filed official challenges against 532 Wake County voters who had proven to (then) Clerk of Courts, Lorrin Freeman, that they were not US citizens. 

We’ve covered this matter extensively in the past (see link here) but the Court system responded to our embarrassing find by declaring jury disqualification information off limits basically daring us to sue them. Realizing we’d never find an attorney stupid enough to sue the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, we sought legislative remedy.[…]

Because of his past Oversight Committee work, we approached Representative George Cleveland. He loved the idea and promised to get a lobbyist from the Clerks of Court to help him draft the language. Their 2013 version of the bill sailed through the House, but Senate Pro Tem, Phil Berger left it to die in Warren Daniel’s Judiciary Committee. 

In 2015 Cleveland tried again, this time partnering with Michael Speciale. They got it through both the House and the Senate, but a revision in Senate Judiciary II meant it required committee work, and House Speaker Tim Moore killed the bill, through his Rules Committee, chaired by the eventually disgraced lawmaker, David Lewis.

In 2017, Cleveland tried again, joined by Larry Pittman. This time, they got it through the House and over to the Senate, but Berger killed it through Tom Apodaca’s Rules Committee. That was when the very annoyed Rep Cleveland cornered Apodaca to ask him why. Cleveland later told me, “he shrugged and said ‘the Clerks don’t like it.’”[…]

The following year, we discovered a letter that backed up Apodaca’s claim. It came from an organization called the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court and it was signed by their Executive Director, Jamie Lassiter. It skillfully played on the ignorance of both the Clerks of Court and the lawmakers, without even mentioning the real issue: Non-citizen voters.  

Instead, the letter linked here used some time-honored Democrat witchcraft: She conjured up a victim!  

“For example, someone moves in October 2015 and they move back in January 2016 when a jury summons is sent. This is before a primary or general election in 2016. A request for excusal would be appropriate for the January summons and the right to voter would also be valid later that same year.”

Either out of ignorance or malice, Lassiter failed to mention how election officials are required to follow a byzantine removal process that takes a minimum of four years to complete. During that period, any contact with the voter automatically flips to “Active” and the entire removal process is halted. 

So, if Lassiter’s imaginary victim voter had attempted to vote in the 2016 primary, their status would have reverted back to Active and the voter would never even know they had briefly been listed as Inactive. In short, her grand scenario failed to comport with reality in any way whatsoever and NC’s House and Senate leadership’s “team players” use it to justify claiming “the Clerks don’t like it.” 

Lassiter’s secondary excuse for opposing the bill involved the fact that we already have processes in place for removing convicted felons and deceased voters. Thus, killing the bill would “avoid duplication of efforts and reporting.” The flaw here is that neither of the current statutory processes are perfect. 

As a reminder, in 2012, our organization made international headlines by finding nearly 30,000 deceased NC voters that their existing process had somehow missed. Using jury excusals might have prevented our publicly humiliating them. There’s no downside to information from other state agencies that could help election officials do a better job with voter list maintenance, but Lassiter was grasping at straws.

Her third excuse involved the song and dance lawmakers always get when they make government “workers” change their duties: “We don’t have the resources!” In this case, she mentioned “software capability,” but over 90% of the state’s 100 counties already have a contract with a data management company called Service Commander.

While most lawmakers don’t know about those contracts, we do . . . and so do the Clerks of Courts whom Lassiter represents. How those Clerks could authorize such deceptive lobbying by their Executive Director is a question for another day.

The letter closed with a shiny object, suggesting the Legislature fund a “link between jury computer systems and the county board in each county.” While we could support data sharing between any and all state agencies whose records could impact voter list maintenance, this idea was dead on arrival because of the cost. Lassiter, a paid lobbyist, clearly knew this.   

Filing it all away, as soon as the 2019-2020 session began, we visited Cleveland to see what tactic he would use this time around. He stunned us by announcing he would not sponsor the bill this time. After a cruel pause, he said he would ask a few of his Senate friends to sponsor it. 

“I want Berger to move first.”  […]


********* UPDATE ********************

We got the following email from Jamie Lassiter’s personal gmail account shortly after midnight the morning after this story posted.  (We’ve cropped out mentions of her personal email address, in order to protect her privacy.)

She speaks of “inaccuracies” – plural – but only specifies ONE. We’re not too sure what she’s specifically referencing.

Our post merely quotes from reporting by The Voter Integrity Project.  VIP’s Jay Delancy says he stands by his reporting.  He also tells us Rep. Cleveland is standing by his recollection of events, as well. 

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