This article first appeared at American Lens News on December 5, 2016.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections has ruled that absentee ballots in question in Bladen County will be counted. However, the case is being referred to Federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The State Board of Elections issued a statement:
The State Board of Elections voted Saturday to dismiss the election protest of Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. of Bladen County, citing a lack of substantial evidence of a violation of election law or other irregularity or misconduct sufficient to cast doubt on the results of the election.
The State Board also unanimously dismissed a protest on appeal from Kenneth Register of Bladen County, citing the same reason.
Board member Joshua D. Malcolm also made a motion for the State Board to make available to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina any and all information in the State Board’s possession regarding the 2016 general election in Bladen County. That motion passed unanimously.
As previously reported, the discovery of an absentee ballot mill sprang from an Election Protest filed by Dowless McCrae, Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.
Dowless’ accusations were corroborated by a forensic handwriting expert according to a letter sent to the North Carolina State Board of Elections by James Heil, a member of the Bladen County Board of Elections.
The protest filed by McCrae cites several absentee ballot witnesses signing off on large numbers of absentee ballots and also including these witnesses writing in the name of the candidate opposing McCrae.
The witnesses in question were paid fees by Bladen County Improvement Association PAC for Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts.
NC GOP Executive Director, Dallas Woodhouse, issued the following statement:
“Today the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to refer what appears to be a serious case of voter fraud through unlawful absentee ballot harvesting to Federal Prosecutors, specifically the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. We are confident that the new Trump appointed U.S. Attorney will aggressively expose these abuses of our electoral system and follow the evidence wherever it goes.
This scheme, which uses only a few people to fill out hundreds of absentee ballots, and a Political Action Committee funded by the North Carolina Democrat Party, represents serious violations of both federal and state election law, and should be independently reviewed also by our State Bureau of Investigation.
These issues have to be examined, even if they do not effect the outcome of individual races at this time, because next time they could.
Fully disposing of these issues helps our state move quickly to a final election outcome that we can all have confidence in.”
The filing by McCrae over absentee ballots was not the first of its kind. Questions and protests were filing in 2010 and 2012 regarding the same type of absentee ballot mill.
Those cases also involved some of the same individuals and involved the Bladen County Improvement PAC.
Read more about the backstory in Bladen County: #CarolinaChaos: Bladen County’s Ballot Backstory
Update – the Governor has requested the SBI investigate in Bladen County:
Governor Pat McCrory has requested that the State Bureau of Investigation look into voting irregularities in Bladen County. This request follows the unanimous vote by the State Board of Elections to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District.
“We have an obligation to ensure that every vote is counted accurately and that our elections process is conducted legally,” said Governor McCrory. “Any verified instance of voter fraud or other illegal activity should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”