Raleigh, N.C. – Sens. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Tommy Tucker (R-Union), and Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) called on Governor Roy Cooper to establish an independent, bipartisan task force to investigate absentee ballot irregularities spanning multiple election cycles, including the 2016 gubernatorial election.
The Cooper-appointed chairman of the Board of Elections resigned for overt partisanship days ago. Last Thursday, the legislators said that the Democratic-run Board of Elections should not oversee an investigation into the 9th Congressional District or any previous instances of apparent voter fraud in Bladen County. The lawmakers contended that a bipartisan task force is better equipped to conduct a legitimate probe.
Bladen County Anomalies
The 2018 Bladen County absentee irregularities stood out because of statistical anomalies. Harris garnered a much larger proportion of absentee-by-mail votes in Bladen County compared to absentee-by-mail votes in other counties. Harris also won a much larger proportion of absentee-by-mail votes in Bladen County compared to his overall votes in Bladen County.
The 2018 numbers are in line with a historical pattern of Bladen County irregularities, which comports with newly-appointed Board of Elections Chairman Josh Malcolm’s statement that this has been going on “for years.”
In fact, the 2016 election results show similar statistical anomalies. Roy Cooper lost Bladen County by a seven-point margin. But Cooper won Bladen County absentee-by-mail votes by a 23-point margin, representing a 30-point swing in absentee results compared to all votes. Cooper also lost the statewide absentee-by-mail vote by 5,000 votes, yet won Bladen County absentee by mail votes 61% to 38%.
A 2016 complaint about absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County was dismissed by the Democratic Party as completely false, but the Board of Elections unanimously referred the matter to state and federal prosecutors. Both inquiries are apparently ongoing, and the Bladen County District Attorney referred the investigation to the Wake County District Attorney in January of 2018 because of apparent criminal conduct in that jurisdiction.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice recently issued large-scale subpoenas into North Carolina voting records. Democratic elected officials and members of the Board of Elections fought the subpoenas.
Further raising suspicion of widespread and long-standing absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County is a 2010 story by news station WWAY. In their investigative reporting, WWAY raised questions about conduct by the Bladen County Improvement Association, a political organization funded by the Democratic Party and prominent Democratic elected officials. The story described the Bladen County Improvement Association as “the biggest player of all in the Bladen [County] get-out-the-vote arena,” which is the focus of the same tactics used in the alleged 2018 impropriety. Further, the former Chairman of the Bladen County Board of Elections said that his complaints about 2010 irregularities were never investigated.
In 2016, multiple Democratic candidates contributed to the Bladen County Improvement Association. Those candidates won Bladen County absentee-by-mail votes in a landslide despite much closer margins in votes cast by other means. For example, one Democratic candidate for N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction who donated money to the Bladen County Improvement Association won the overall vote by a 5-point margin, but won the absentee-by-mail vote by a 46-point margin.
Breaking news stories have pointed to the Bladen County Improvement Association’s continued involvement in the 2018 elections.
Sens. Bishop, Tucker, and Newton argued that these irregularities, including the 2018 and 2016 election results, require a comprehensive and bipartisan investigation.
Partisan Board of Elections
Given the partisanship on the Board of Elections, as evidenced by the chairman’s recent resignation, the lawmakers believe a bipartisan task force is critical to a legitimate investigation. Further, Governor Cooper appointed Democratic members of the Board of Elections, and the legislators contended it would be a conflict of interest for those members to investigate the 2016 gubernatorial election results.
Since Governor Cooper first took office, he has fought vociferously to maintain partisan control over the Board of Elections. The legislators questioned whether a potential motivation for demanding partisan control is to avoid questions about the 2016 election results.
Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg): “Since Roy Cooper took office, he has been on a crusade to keep partisan Democratic control of the Board of Elections, and therefore its investigatory authority. Our state is now in the national spotlight over the NC-9 investigation, and the latest information clearly indicates a widespread and long-standing pattern of irregularities in Bladen County that spans both parties. We need a bipartisan task force to conduct an investigation free from any charges of politically-motivated actions.”
Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union): “I’m retiring in three weeks, so the only stake I have in this is the integrity of my party. The allegations in the Congressional race make me sick, and Republicans must hold their own accountable for any confirmed fraud. By the same token, Democrats must identify and condemn any fraud in their party. That’s why we need a bipartisan investigation.”
Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus): “This is not an effort to inject partisanship into a major investigation. It’s quite the opposite. There has been a pattern of irregularities in Bladen County that at the very least raises questions about results for candidates from both parties over multiple election cycles. The only proper way to investigate potential voter fraud involving both parties is to appoint a fully bipartisan task force.”