Following the midterm elections, President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress became obsessed with the possibility of voter fraud. Well, there was voter fraud, but not by Democrats.
One place where there is a strong possibility of fraud in the 2018 midterms, but Republicans are suddenly quiet about it. In North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, the state election board has refused to certify the results of the election as it investigates the possibility that fraud helped Republican Mark Harris defeat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of more than 280,000 cast.
Things got even more problematic for Republicans after an absentee ballot witness said Monday that a Bladen County, N.C., electioneer paid her to collect absentee ballots from last month’s midterm elections.
Ginger Eason told local station WSOCTV that Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr. paid her between $75 and $100 to pick up completed absentee ballots for North Carolina’s 9th District, the results of which are being officially investigated.
“I was helping McCrae pick up ballots,” Eason said to the news outlet, referring to the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor who appears to be at the center of the probe.
Eason added that she didn’t see who people were voting for, but that she never mailed the ballots. Instead, she gave them to Dowless, adding that he did not mention to her that what she was doing was illegal.
Dowless, known locally as McCrae, has been named twice in sworn affidavits as someone who worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris’s campaign against Democrat Dan McCready.
When asked by WSOCTV about paying people to pick up ballots, Dowless said that he had no comment.
WSOCTV said that it has found what appears to be a targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots in Bladen County.
The news station reported that it consistently found the same people signing as witnesses for the people voting, something it notes is unusual. Eason was listed as signing as a witness for 28 submitted and accepted absentee ballot envelopes.
There’s also a suspicious number of absentee ballots listed as unreturned, particularly from voters of color. The News & Observer did an analysis of the absentee ballot results in Bladen County and neighboring Robeson County and found that a significant number of voters had failed to return their absentee ballots. In Robeson County, a disproportionate number of minority voters had not returned their ballots. “But in Robeson County, 75 percent of the mail-in ballots requested by African Americans and 69 percent of the mail-in ballots requested by American Indians were listed as unreturned,” the paper found.
McCready conceded to Harris and said he would not request a recount after being down approximately 700 votes in November.
But the elections board elected not to certify the results, citing “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting.”
Bladen County has received increased attention stemming from voter affidavits submitted to the board that allege scenarios where people came to their homes and asked to hand in their absentee ballots.
Officials have also been probing uncommonly high numbers of absentee ballots submitted in Bladen County.
Irregularities in the November vote have also sparked an investigation into the Republican primary for the seat as well. As The New Yorker reports, Harris defeated the GOP incumbent, Robert Pittenger, in May by 828 votes—including 96 percent of the mail-in votes in Bladen County.