The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Mark Meadows, his wife, Debra, and their trailer-home voter registration

Then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and his wife, Debra Meadows, walk from the Oval Office to board Marine One and depart for Camp David on May 15, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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“I don’t want my vote or anyone else’s to be disenfranchised. … Do you realize how inaccurate the voter rolls are, with people just moving around. … Anytime you move, you’ll change your driver’s license, but you don’t call up and say, hey, by the way I’m re-registering.”

— Mark Meadows, at the time White House chief of staff, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Aug. 16, 2020

“We need to make sure that everybody’s vote is cast. But we also need to make sure that no one else disenfranchises those by creating a fraud on the voting system.”

— Meadows, in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Aug. 23, 2020

In the run-up to the 2020 election, President Donald Trump repeatedly warned about potential election fraud — as did Meadows. But, apparently, what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.

About a month after Meadows made these statements, Charles Bethea of the New Yorker reported, Meadows and his wife, Debra, submitted voter registration forms that listed as their residential address a 14-by-62-foot mobile home with a rusted metal roof that sold for $105,000 in 2021.

The forms ask for a residential address — “where you physically live” — and are signed “under penalty of perjury.” According to Bethea’s reporting, Meadows and his wife have never lived there — and Meadows himself may have never set foot in the house. But the couple used that address to cast ballots in the 2020 general election, North Carolina voting records show.

Six months earlier, in March 2020, Meadows sold, for $370,000, a house in Sapphire, N.C., meaning the couple no longer had a place of residence in the state. Instead, they lived at the time in a condominium in Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. But that did not stop Debra Meadows from using the old Sapphire registration to cast a ballot in a June primary runoff election for someone for whom she had done fundraising.

These votes appear to be the exact scenario that Meadows and Trump warned about. Indeed, in his memoir, “The Chief’s Chief,” Meadows wrote: “If we could get a few more Republicans to show up in places like Minneapolis and Bemidji in November, we would be able to win not only Minnesota, but the whole election — assuming, of course, that everyone else who votes was alive, a real person, and an actual resident of the state they were voting in. That last part turned out to be a little harder than we thought.”

Were Meadows and his wife actual residents of the state they were voting in? It does not look like it.

The Facts

When Meadows left Congress to join Trump’s White House, 12 candidates vied in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District on March 3, 2020. Lynda Bennett, a friend of the Meadows’, led the pack with 22.7 percent of the vote. In a surprise, political novice Madison Cawthorn finished second with 20.4 percent, edging out Jim Davis, a member of the General Assembly. The fractured showing required a runoff between Bennett and Cawthorn on June 23.

Debra had campaigned heavily for Bennett, attending fundraisers for her across the state. On March 26, the Meadows sold their home in North Carolina, property records show.

That left the couple only with two undeveloped parcels of land in the state, according to his financial disclosure form.

Nevertheless, Debra voted in the June 23 runoff, using her Transylvania County registration to vote early, voting records show. Mark Meadows did not vote in the runoff, although he did secure an endorsement from Trump for Bennett two weeks before that election. Bennett’s overwhelming loss — Cawthorn beat her 66 percent to 34 percent — was considered a “black eye” for Trump and an embarrassment for Meadows. (Gerry Cohen, a North Carolina elections official, said that under a law in place until this year, anyone eligible to vote in the first primary can vote in the runoff primary.)

Both Mark and Debra Meadows voted in the 2020 general election, with Mark listed as voting by absentee ballot; Debra voted early in person.

Less than two months before the election — and three weeks before the state’s voter registration deadline — Mark and Debra Meadows filed voter registration forms listing the mobile home as their residence. Both forms appear to have been filled out by the same hand; they were released with the signatures redacted.

Interestingly, Meadows’s mother, Mary Gail Garwood, had lived at and voted from the Sapphire property in 2012, 2014 and 2016. She then registered to vote in Georgia on Sept. 12, 2018. Mark listed the property for sale the next day, Sept. 13, 2018.

For many years before, the Meadows lived in and voted from Jackson County in a house they sold in 2016 for almost $1.3 million. They then moved to an apartment in Asheville in 2018, a move Meadows said was temporary, according to local newspaper accounts. The couple even switched party registrations in 2008 to vote in the Democratic presidential primary as part of “Operation Chaos,” a Rush Limbaugh-inspired tactic to keep alive the lengthy presidential primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Now, as the 2020 general election loomed, the couple listed a house four miles north of the border with Georgia that they did not own or live in as their primary residence. To register to vote in North Carolina, a citizen must have lived in the county where they are registering and have resided there for at least 30 days before the date of the election, according to the state’s board of elections.

The former owner (unidentified in the article) told the New Yorker that Debra Meadows had rented the house once but spent only one or two nights there; Mark Meadows never stayed at all. When the house was put on the market in the summer of 2020, she said, Meadows never expressed interest in buying it.

Both Mark and Debra listed a post office box in a town about 70 miles away from the mobile home, near Asheville, as the mailing address. The director of the county Board of Elections told the magazine that if a voter registration card is not sent back as undeliverable, then the voter goes into the system. Both forms, filed Sept. 19, list the move-in date as the next day: Sept. 20.

Yet the real estate agent still listed the property for sale on Facebook on Sept. 23. The property’s address was later used by Meadows when he requested an absentee ballot on Oct. 1, records obtained by WRAL-TV show. The absentee ballot was requested on his behalf by Debra, the document shows. (Update, March 23: the signature is redacted but a state elections board spokesman said it was signed “Mark Meadows.”)

The 900-square-foot mobile home, with its modest bedrooms, is a far cry from the family’s old 6,000-square-foot house in Jackson County, which had four bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms and was on a nearly six-acre lot. As the mobile home’s current owner told the New Yorker: “It was not the kind of place you’d think the chief of staff of the president would be staying.”

Indeed, in 2021, Meadows purchased a three-story waterfront home of more than 6,000 square feet in South Carolina for nearly $1.6 million.

Ben Williamson, a spokesman for Mark Meadows, did not respond to text or phone messages. George Terwilliger III, a Meadows attorney, also did not respond to a request for comment. Debra Meadows did not respond to emails sent to her email address at Right Women PAC, where she is executive director, or to several personal email addresses. She also did not respond to a phone message.

The Heritage Foundation maintains a voter-fraud database with numerous instances of politicians being charged for filing false voter registration forms.

Steve Watkins, a GOP House member from Kansas, was charged with three felonies in 2020 after he listed a postal box at a UPS store as his residence on a state voter registration form while living temporarily at his parents’ home during a 2019 municipal election. In Pennsylvania, Richard Cummings, a county school board member, moved from Westmoreland County to Allegheny County in 2009, but continued voting at his Westmoreland address through the 2016 general election. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation.

The Bottom Line

Meadows, of course, had an important job for the federal government — White House chief of staff. Perhaps that’s a possible excuse, but he did sign the form.

Meanwhile, Debra Meadows appears to have voted twice under suspicious circumstances — first in the runoff primary from the address of a home that had been sold three months earlier, and then by signing a form under “penalty of perjury” that her primary residence was a mobile home in the mountains when she did not live there.

Voter fraud is relatively rare. It’s jarring to see such fishy behavior by someone who decried it.

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