• 70°

US House may resolve disputed 9th District election in NC

By Emery P. Dalesio

Associated Press

RALEIGH — A U.S. House member signaled Friday that Congress may ultimately resolve the nation’s last undecided congressional race.

The head of the House Administration Committee, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, asked North Carolina elections officials to preserve all original notes, recordings or documents used in investigating allegations of ballot fraud in the state’s 9th District. The U.S. House may also investigate and ultimately determine the rightful winner of the disputed seat, Lofgren wrote to the state elections board’s executive director.

“The committee is acutely aware of its responsibilities and rights concerning the eventual seating of house members in disputed or vacant seats,” Lofgren wrote in a letter released Friday by the North Carolina elections board.

“Accordingly, it is of the utmost importance that the board and all parties handling such evidence preserve and protect said material for future inspection by the House, this committee and its designated agents.”

Sworn statements by voters and other witnesses have suggested mail-in ballots could have been altered or discarded.

Republican Mark Harris holds a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready. A winner hasn’t been declared pending investigations into an unusually large number of absentee ballots that were requested and never returned, as well as the large advantage Harris has among absentee votes in two of the district’s rural counties, Bladen and Robeson.

Bladen County Elections Board Chairman Bobby Ludlum said in a sworn affidavit released Friday that several absentee ballot request forms dropped off ahead of November’s general election were forged. The three forged forms were among 165 requests for mail-in ballots delivered by a woman the Republican election official didn’t name.

 

“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 statement confirms part of an earlier affidavit by Jens Lutz, a Democrat who was the county elections board’s vice chairman before resigning abruptly last month.

Both a subcontractor working last fall for Harris and a black empowerment group supporting Democrats submitted clusters of absentee ballot requests, a legal practice.

The forged ballots were reported to the state elections board staff, who instructed Bladen County elections workers to mail absentee ballots to all but the three people whose names were forged, Ludlum said.

Ludlum also denied telling county Democratic Party Chairman Ben Snyder that Leslie McCrae Dowless — the local political operative working for Harris who is named as a target of the state investigation — discarded absentee ballots.

“I am not aware of anyone in Bladen County ever throwing ballots in the trash or stating that they have thrown absentee ballots or any type of ballot in the trash,” Ludlum said.

Voters have said in other affidavits that Dowless or people working for him collected ballots that were blank, incomplete or stuffed in unsealed envelopes.

Ludlum disputed other claims by Lutz that local elections workers were lax about protecting the security of completed absentee ballots. Ludlum, Lutz and the county elections board’s two other members voted unanimously last year that an unlocked door between the ballot storage room and another government office should be secured and an alarm and security cameras installed.

County officials refused to spend the money, however. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which assessed the site shortly before this year’s election, said in a report obtained by The Associated Press that the unlocked door made voting materials vulnerable.

Ludlum also disputed Lutz’s claim that Dowless enjoyed close relationships to key local elections workers and that they allowed him to copy ballot request forms complete with voter’s signatures and Social Security and driver’s license numbers. Lutz said those details could give Dowless the ability to request mail-in ballots for anyone who has ever voted that way in recent years.

Neither Dowless “nor any other unauthorized person was allowed to take and copy un-redacted absentee ballot request forms with confidential information on them,” Ludlum’s statement said. “Dowless was not given greater access to absentee ballot or other information than was given to other citizens.”

Ludlum’s lawyers on Friday refused to confirm news reports that he and Dowless are cousins.

Comments

College

College baseball: Top-seeded Arkansas routs NC State 21-2

Crime

Teacher accused of assaulting at-risk teen at New London military-style school

Education

NC court: Students can use constitution to fight bullying

Coronavirus

Vaccine surplus grows as expiration dates loom

Elections

Justice Department will review restrictive voting laws in Republican-controlled states

College

Wake Forest adding Ole Miss graduate transfer Khadim Sy to basketball squad

Local

Gov. Roy Cooper appoints new Rowan County Superior Court judge

BREAKING NEWS

Sheriff’s Office: Gold Hill woman likely killed during break-in

Crime

Fatal car crash turns into homicide investigation

Crime

62-year-old man killed in Wednesday murder

Business

Solar farm plans in Gold Hill met by resident concerns

High School

High school tennis: Salisbury’s Campion/Wymbs, Carson’s Perry/Conrad claim doubles titles

Local

Quotes of the week

Health

Local lawmakers weigh in on state budget process, potential for Medicaid expansion

Local

Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black discusses meeting with Department of Justice, calls for action

Education

School staff members to receive payments from unprecedented RSS bonus package June 23

Nation/World

Senators eye $579 billion in new infrastructure spending as part of $1 trillion plan

News

Veto likely for state bill on abortion limits

Coronavirus

Wealthiest nations expected to pledge 1B vaccine doses for world

High School

High school baseball: Raiders win first conference tourney in 18 years

News

North Carolina Senate gives final OK to $2B tax-cut plan

Education

Gov. Cooper visits Knox Middle School teacher, gives TikTok a try

Coronavirus

Salisbury Police officer dies after contracting COVID-19

Education

NC to give out $1 million each to 4 vaccinated residents