State leaders cracking down on absentee-ballot tampering

Updated: Oct. 29, 2019 at 3:52 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WECT) - State leaders are cracking down on anyone who tries to tamper with state or local elections.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill that directly addresses last year’s ninth congressional district race, which caused Bladen County to hold new elections after the state board found evidence of election fraud.

This measure increases criminal penalties for anyone who attempts to sell or destroy absentee ballots.

The house passed the bill with a vote of 111-1 Tuesday afternoon. The senate unanimously approved it Tuesday morning.

In reaction to the bill being passed, NC Senator Ralph Hise said, “last year, we made a promise to craft consensus legislation addressing the absentee ballot fraud that took place during the Ninth Congressional District election. Today, we kept our promise. Secure elections are the most fundamental tenet of a democracy, and the policies we enacted today are intended ensure the activity that took place last year can never happen again.”

This compromise bill now goes to Governor Roy Cooper's desk to be signed in law.

Most of the bill looks to combat illegal ballot harvesting and outlines the felony criminal penalties for doing so.

Evidence of ballot tampering and other alleged fraud came to light in the 2018 campaign for that 9th district seat, where McCrae Dowless and others face criminal charges for allegedly mishandling mail-in absentee ballots.

The bill also permanently restores early, in-person voting on the last Saturday before state elections.

The New Hanover County Board of Elections Director says proportionally, that last Saturday is one of the busiest early voting days.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. WECT contributed to this report.