Protests filed in Bladen and 11 other counties over alleged fraudulent absentee ballots

Published: Nov. 15, 2016 at 11:16 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2016 at 6:42 AM EST
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BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Formal protests are now being filed in 11 additional counties to challenge potentially fraudulent absentee ballots cast for Roy Cooper and other Democrats, according to Governor Pat McCrory's campaign.

A formal protest was filed with the Bladen County Board of Elections to challenge several hundred absentee ballots, alleged to be fraudulent on Tuesday.

The initial evidence laid out in the protest suggests a "massive scheme to run an absentee ballot mill involving hundreds of ballots, perpetrated by and through the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC," a political-action committee funded by the N.C. Democrat Party and other prominent statewide Democrats.

In addition to funneling money to the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC, the North Democratic Party also transferred money to political action committees in 11 counties.

A protest was filed on Wednesday in Halifax County and additional protests are being filed by registered voters in Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Guilford, Nash, Northampton, Robeson, Vance, Wake and Warren counties, according to the McCrory campaign.

Protests urge each county board of elections to conduct a full-scale investigation into the absentee ballots and review all witness signatures on the absentee ballot envelopes to look for evidence of ballot harvesting.

"It appears that our worst fears have come true and this absentee ballot fraud scheme may run deeper than just Bladen County," said Russell Peck, Pat McCrory's campaign manager. "Unfortunately, we may also have uncovered the real reason Roy Cooper fought so hard against efforts to prevent voter fraud as attorney general. These voter fraud concerns must be addressed before the results of the election can be finalized."

"It is absolutely shameful that Governor McCrory would make these unfounded claims," said Ford Porter, campaign spokesman for Cooper. "This is the worst kind of misinformation campaign meant to undermine the results of an election the Governor has lost."

According to the McCrory campaign, the protest, filed by Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor McCrae Dowless and corroborated by a forensic handwriting expert, notes "shocking evidence resulting from a blatant scheme to try to impact the voting results of an entire county and perhaps even sway statewide and federal elections," including the gubernatorial race.

"With hundreds of fraudulent votes found in just one North Carolina county for a straight Democratic ticket, close examination of this election is required to make sure the true winner of the election is properly determined," said Jason Torchinsky, legal counsel for the Pat McCrory Committee Legal Defense Fund. "The staggering evidence of voter fraud in Bladen County and the number of similar PACs that the North Carolina Democratic Party donated to shortly before the start of early vote requires close examination throughout the state."

The ballots were identified as problematic after Dowless brought suspicions of voter fraud in his race for Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor to the attention of the Bladen County Board of Elections before Election Day.

A multitude of suspicious write-in votes cast for Democrat Franklin Graham in the race for Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor appear to have "overtly similar" handwriting patterns on the ballots and witness signatures, according to the McCrory campaign.

Horace Munn, a representative with the Bladen County Improvement Assocation PAC, said Tuesday night that his group did nothing against the law. He explained that PAC volunteers went door-to-door during early voting to help those who wanted to fill out absentee ballots. Munn said absentee ballots are common in Bladen County because of "harassment and intimidation at the polls."

Munn said the volunteers provided a sample ballot, already filled out, for voters to use as they completed their own. Franklin Graham was written in on the sample ballot.

On several occasions, Munn said his volunteers manually filled out ballots for voters who requested it, something he explained they've done for years.

"From what I gather, the people that were voting at home couldn't write in legible Franklin Graham, and so I guess they asked people to assist them and write that name in, so when they wrote that name in they probably did it for multiple people," Munn explained. "Now the state board of election is saying if you wrote his name in for them even though you didn't bubble, you are supposed to sign it to say you assisted."

Bobby Lumley, Chair of Bladen Board of Elections, said that the fact those who assisted didn't sign the line saying they assisted is a real problem.

"I think there must be some truth because the state accepted it for investigation. I know there is voter fraud--in this case that cat's out of the bag so to speak," stated Lumley. "The absentee by mail program is being abused severely, we had over one thousand absentee ballots this time. It started growing with the PACs, when they got active, they go out and get everyone they can to sign a request for an absentee ballot."

Dozens of ballots appear to have been mostly straight ticket votes for Democrats in all other offices.

The protest filed by Dowless challenges the alleged fraudulent votes cast in the Solid and Water Conservation District Supervisor race in addition to all other votes cast in state, local and federal races.

The State Board of Elections released the following statement regarding the situation in Bladen County:

"The State Board of Elections has been investigating alleged irregularities regarding mail-in absentee ballots in Bladen County during the general election, and that investigation continues." - Patrick Gannon, Public Information Officer, NC State Board of Elections

Porter also issued a response to the protest:

"This is an isolated incident that the state board of elections is aware of and investigating. We fully support that investigation into improper assistance in this nonpartisan local Soil and Water Conservation District race. Once again Governor McCrory is trying to undermine the results of an election he lost."

The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement to the protest:

"As usual, these claims from the McCrory campaign are over the top and completely false. The complaint in question does not even deal with a Democrat – it is an investigation into improper assistance in a nonpartisan local Soil and Water Conservation District race. The State Board of Elections is already investigating this potential issue in a local race as they should." - Kimberly Reynolds, NCDP Executive Director

The individuals who signed and filled out the ballots in question have received financial disbursements from the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC for "G.O.T.V.", according to disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections.

Munn said the volunteers were paid $25 or $35 depending on which area they worked to pay for their food and gas, like other G.O.T.V volunteers for the Presidential campaigns.

"If I went to a job and they paid me 35 I don't think I'd stay there very long. They aren't there because of money, they are there because of the cause and the movement, and that is legal," stated Munn.

It is illegal to exchange money for votes or to pay someone to commit voter fraud in the State of North Carolina and under federal law.

According to Governor Pat McCrory, Dowless lists examples in his protest, including one very active absentee ballot "witness" who personally validated at least 67 mail-in absentee ballots and appeared to have written in Franklin Graham at least 71 times.

The Bladen County Improvement Association PAC filed reports with the North Carolina State Board of Elections admitting they paid these individuals multiple payments for "G.O.T.V." or "Get-Out-The-Vote" operations.

According to disclosure reports, among the largest contributors to the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC are the North Carolina Democratic Party and candidates for statewide and countywide offices, such as: Mike Morgan, Wake County district court judge and Supreme Court justice-elect; June Atkinson, superintendent of public instruction; Ken Spaulding, former gubernatorial candidate; Dan Blue III, state senator and former candidate for state treasurer; Chris Rey, mayor of Spring Lake and former candidate for U.S. Senate; G. Michael Cogdell, Bladen County commissioner.

View the full protest filed by Dowless below:

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