Robert Higdon Jr., the U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina appointed by President Donald Trump, had 20 noncitizens rounded up and charged last August for improperly voting in the 2016 election, the Washington Post reported.
It was a feeble attempt to prove Trump’s claim of widespread illegal voting, and a shining example of misplaced priorities. After all, Higdon was chasing this handful of legal residents even as he ignored repeated claims of absentee ballot fraud in North Carolina’s 9th District — fraud that actually may have swayed an election.
Higdon’s targets, the Post said, included people like Jose Solano-Rodriguez, who never sought to register to vote but who voted after receiving a card from the Wake County Board of Elections saying he was registered. It also included Alessandro Cannizzaro, an Italian who has lived in the Raleigh area legally since 2000. He applied for citizenship in 2003, passed the test, but did not take the oath because he was told the room was too full, the Post reported.
It’s wrong for noncitizens to vote, and the fact that a handful did so raises questions about whether county boards and the state board of elections have proper procedures in place to prevent it. That said, an audit of the 2016 election found that 41 noncitizens voted in North Carolina out of 4.5 million votes cast — less than one one-thousandth of 1 percent.
While Higdon was threatening a couple dozen legal residents with deportation over a relatively minor offense, questions were repeatedly raised about absentee ballot fraud in the 9th District.
But Higdon did not aggressively dedicate his office’s resources to that. U.S. attorneys have to decide where to allocate their limited resources. For Higdon, the choice was clear. When he took office in August 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was urging prosecutors to go after immigration-related crimes, and Higdon was apparently happy to oblige.
Higdon’s efforts are a waste of time and money. They target extremely low-level offenders. And they let real voter fraud go undetected.

Editorial by The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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