ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WBTV) – The Chairman of the Bladen County Board of Elections filed a new affidavit, made public for the first time Friday, that said staff at the county board of elections found three absentee ballot request forms submitted in the 2018 general election that had been forged.
The affidavit does not name the names of voters in whose names the three forms were submitted nor does it identify the woman who submitted the forms.
Bobby Ludlum, a Republican who chairs the Bladen County Board of Elections, submitted the affidavit, largely, in response to several affidavits filed by attorneys for the Dan McCready campaign.
Ludlum’s affidavit was released by an attorney for Mark Harris’ campaign.
Harris beat McCready by 905 votes in November’s election for the 9th Congressional District.
That race remains un-certified after the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to investigative reports of voting irregularities in Bladen and Robeson Counties that could have impacted the 9th District race.
Among the affidavits who which Ludlum’s affidavit responds is one filed by Jens Lutz, a Democrat who served on the Bladen County Board of Elections as vice chairman until is abrupt resignation in December.
Lutz alleged lax security at the county elections office and that staff identified three forged ballot request forms in 2018, among other things.
Forged absentee ballot request forms
“Mr. Lutz stated that the Bladen County Board of Elections found forged absentee ballot request forms in 2018. We did and we reported the incident promptly to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (‘State Board of Election’),” Ludlum said in his affidavit.
Ludlum said the forged request forms were found in a batch of 165 forms dropped off at the elections off by a woman for the November 2018 general election.
The woman was not identified by name and the sign-in log for absentee ballot request forms does not list an individual dropping off 165 forms at one time, though a number of people are listed as having dropped off more than 165 forms at once on various dates.
“About two to three weeks before the general election, we discovered that three (3) of the forms were forged. One of the three was for a relative of mine who told me that two women had asked if he wanted to request a form. He said no,” the affidavit said.
Ludlum’s affidavit said the forged ballots were reported to staff at the NCSBE, who instructed the county staff to send absentee ballots to the voters whose forms were turned in with that submission except the three known to be forgeries.
A staff member at the NCSBE confirmed to WBTV that the Bladen County BOE reported an incident of forged absentee ballot request forms for the 2018 general election.
WBTV has confirmed two voters who filed affidavits through the McCready campaign alleging they received absentee ballots they did not request did, in fact, have absentee ballots submitted with signatures that appear to be different from those included on their affidavits.
A third woman who filed an affidavit through the McCready campaign alleging she received an absentee ballot she didn’t request later, when shown a copy of her absentee ballot request form, told a WBTV reporter that the handwriting and signature on the form was hers.
Ludlum affidavit disputes other claims
While Ludlum’s affidavit did confirm one allegation made by former county elections board vice chairman Jens Lutz in a previously filed affidavit, it disputed several other claims made by Lutz.
“I have read the Decemebr 19, 2018 affidavit of Jens Lutz, a former, short-term, Democratic member of the Bladen County Board of Elections,” Ludlum’s affidavit said.
“Mr. Lutz’s affidavit contains false information. Specifically, and first, neither Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr. nor any other unauthorized person was allowed to take and copy un-redacted absentee ballot request forms with confidential information on them. This was not allowed. Second, Mr. Dowless was not given greater access to absentee ballot or other information than was given to other citizens. Third, our elections office security was not lax. Fourth, the number of absentee ballots recorded by the elections staff has not been different on multiple occasions from the number of absentee ballots presented to the Bladen County Board of Elections. These statements by Mr. Lutz are not true,” Ludlum wrote in his affidavit.
WBTV has obtained a set of copied absentee ballot request forms that were submitted by McCrae Dowless.
It is not clear whether the forms were obtained from the Bladen BOE or copied before they were turned in. The forms are stamped ‘copy’.