State officials investigate potential election fraud in North Carolina; emergency hearing possible

Lewis Collier
December 7, 2018

Amid the developments, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the House "retains the right to decide who is seated" and could take the "extraordinary step" of calling for a new election if the victor isn't clear. One log showed Boyd dropped off only four absentee ballots during the election and that they were from herself, her husband and her husband's parents. Dowless's operation also appears to have targeted African-American voters, many of them elderly - a constituency that is typically hostile to Republican candidates. North Carolina law allows someone to turn in an absentee ballot on behalf of a "close relative".

A little background on Dowless: Dowless is the vice chair of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District board. North Carolina Republicans argued that hundreds of ballots submitted in Dowless's race for the Soil and Water Conservation board seat bore similar handwriting, and thus the results were suspect, even though Dowless won his race for reelection, The New Yorker reported.

NPR reached Dowless by phone on Thursday.

"There must be an investigation into the years of alleged absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County that is prompt, thorough, transparent and nonpartisan", Republican state Sen.

The state board of elections has refused to certify the election results, and plans to meet on or before December 21 to hold a hearing on its current investigation into the allegations.

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Then J. Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, published an analysis that found jarring anomalies, particularly in Bladen County, which has a large black population, and Robeson County, which has one of the largest Native-American populations on the East Coast.

The board released documents on Wednesday that shed light on the extent of Dowless' efforts.

There are also claims that incomplete ballots were collected and then filled out later, Cohen said. And the fact that Harris managed to win a whopping 96% of all Bladen County absentee ballots that actually made it to election officials is a big red flag, too. In 2016, Dowless worked for a Republican primary candidate running against Harris and the sitting Republican representative that Harris would later defeat, Robert Pittenger. McCready, however, withdrew his concession to Harris on Thursday amid the ongoing investigation. But we do know enough.

The North Carolina Board of Elections is slated to hold an open hearing on or before December 21 to discuss the findings of its investigation.

Woodhouse would be smart to call for a new election rather than insist on certification for Harris. Since 2012, when Republicans consolidated control over the legislature and governor's mansion, "what we've seen is some of the most comprehensive voting restrictions in the country", said Tomas Lopez, head of Democracy North Carolina, a voter-access organization.

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