Bladen County election-related disputes continue as Republican leader files complaints against Democratic board members, NCSBE to consider complaints

Bladen County election-related disputes continue as Republican leader files complaints against Democratic board members, NCSBE to consider complaints
The front door of the Bladen County Board of Elections office. (Source: Corey Schmidt)

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The leader of the Republican Party in Bladen County is raising issue with two Democratic members of the Bladen County Board of Elections.

Wayne Schaeffer, chair of the Bladen County Republican Party, has taken issue with Patricia Sheppard and Louella Thompson for what he considers to be unlawful partisan activity.

The two separate complaints will be considered by the North Carolina State Board of Elections on Oct. 18.

In his complaints, Schaeffer alleges Sheppard and Thompson are violating ethics rules governing local boards of elections. Specifically, he cites General Statute 163A-796, that county board of elections members cannot espouse personal political opinions in a public format.

However, that law was recodified at the end of 2018 into General Statute 163-39, which only states board members are not allowed to “make written or oral statements intended for general distribution or dissemination to the public at large supporting or opposing the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates for public office,” or “supporting or opposing the passage of one or more clearly identified referendum proposals,” or “solicit contributions for a candidate, political committee, or referendum committee.”

Schaeffer cites comments Sheppard made on an online news publication’s website, as well as emails sent regarding her husband Dwight Sheppard’s appointment as a poll observer. In those comments, Sheppard discusses the investigation into election fraud that came to a head earlier this year, and the indictments against McCrae Dowless, who is accused of feloniously mishandling absentee by mail ballots.

As for Thompson, Schaeffer submitted screenshots of Facebook posts he says are “clearly meant to disparage the sitting President of the United States.” While one post from June 8 appears on Thompson’s profile as published by her account, the other appears to be something Thompson was “tagged” in, rather than posting independently.

You can see copies of the complaints here: Sheppard, Thompson.

Shaeffer lists the same two witnesses on each complaint: Michael Ayock, a republican member of the Bladen County Board of Elections, and Jane Pait, who has served as an officer of the Bladen County GOP.

If the state board were to find any member of a county board of elections in violation of state statute, the state board could have that member removed.

Sheppard said by phone Friday afternoon she refutes the allegations in the complaint, and that while it’s up to the state board, she is comfortable with the actions she’s taken and things she has said.

“I think that I have really tried to be fair,” she said. "I have certainly bent to compromise with Republicans on occasions when I did not want to when I thought it was the right thing to do.”

The state board is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18.

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