The State Board investigates potential election law violations and refers cases to prosecutors when warranted based on the findings. The Investigations Division includes experienced investigators who specialize in election matters. The State Board does not have the authority to prosecute cases.
On this page, you can explore investigations-related documents, including summary reports of referred cases dating back to 2015, and view the process for cases.
Download the 2015–2022 NCSBE Referred Cases Summary (PDF) or find summary reports by year for referred cases and other related documents in the table below.
Do you want to view all summary reports? Visit our Investigations folder.
Process for Cases
Cases tend to progress in a three-step process:
- Intake: The State Board gets information concerning possible voting irregularities and violations from many sources, including county boards of elections, election watchdog and advocacy organizations, internal audits of elections data, private citizens, political parties, and candidates.
Staff conduct an initial review to determine whether the case meets a priority area. Priority areas include malfeasance by elections officials, significant harm or threat of significant harm to the conduct or administration of elections, culpable conduct, and organized efforts by multiple individuals or entities.
If a priority area is identified, the Investigations Division will open a case. If a priority area is not identified, the incident will be closed. For more information, see the Elections-Related Investigation Priorities Policy (PDF).
- Investigation: After determining that a complaint meets a priority area, the Investigations Division opens an investigation into the complaint. Examples of investigations include matters associated with unlawful voting activity, interference with voters or election officials, voter registration fraud, vote-buying, organized election fraud, and election security breaches.
Some investigations are simple, such as intentional misinformation posted on social media sites. Others are complex, involving extensive analysis of data and interviews of witnesses and subjects. The State Board chair, or in the chair’s absence, any two State Board members, may issue subpoenas when necessary to gather evidence.
Referral: State Board staff work with county elections directors and prosecutors. They present findings at State Board meetings, to grand juries, and in court settings as necessary. Not every investigation leads to a referral for prosecution. Cases may not be referred if the investigation shows that no violation has occurred, insufficient evidence to prove a violation or there is evidence of error or lack of intent.
Investigations that are not referred may result in written warnings that include educational information and best practices relevant to the election laws in question. Absent compelling mitigating factors, intentional violations involving voting are referred. The prosecutor has discretion on whether to prosecute a case or decline it.
Learn More About Election Security
View our 10 Facts About Election Security in North Carolina. For information about canvass and other post-election processes, visit Post-Election Procedures and Audits.