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The growing controversy over North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District – and Bladen County in particular – took another shocking twist yesterday with an allegation that someone had access to early voting totals before Election Day. The News and Observer has more:
Bladen County election workers tallied the results of early voting before Election Day in violation of state rules and are accused of allowing outsiders to view them, a precinct worker wrote in an affidavit released bystate Democrats.
The allegations raise new questions about missteps in an election fraud case in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race that has garnered national attention and held up certification of the U.S. House contest.
The report showing totals from Bladen County’s only early voting location was run on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 from 1:44 p.m. to 1:46 p.m., according to a copy released by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, which is investigating voting irregularities among mail-in absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties.
State law specifies that early votes are not to be tallied before Election Night:
Under North Carolina election law, “if one-stop ballots … are counted electronically, that count shall commence at the time the polls close.” Polls closed in North Carolina on Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. “One-stop voting,” which is what early voting is called in North Carolina, ended on Nov. 3, according to the state board. A 2016 memo from the state board reinforced those policies.
“Recent events have highlighted the need to ensure that the critical responsibilities of canvassing an election are as uniform across the state as our polling place procedures, wrote Kim Strach, the executive director of the state board to county boards of elections in a June 7, 2016 memo.
But an affidavit surfaced yesterday from a pollworker alleging that the rules were violated and outsiders were given access to vote totals – though the interim election director says she cannot confirm the allegation:
But the procedures laid out in the memo were not followed in Bladen County in 2018, according to documents released by the state board and an affidavit signed by a precinct worker.
“On Saturday, 11/3/18, the last day of early voting, the ‘tape’ showing election results at the one-stop polling site was run after the polls closed, and was viewed by officials at the one-stop site who were not judges. It is my understanding that this was improper,” precinct worker Agnes Willis wrote in a affidavit dated Nov. 29.
Willis was one of three witnesses who signed the early vote results, certifying that it was an accurate count. Valeria Peacock McKoy, the interim director of the Bladen County Board of Elections, confirmed that Willis was a precinct worker during the election.
McKoy said she was not aware of votes being counted early or being seen by outside people.
“I don’t know anything about that,” she told The News & Observer on Friday.
If true, this is a serious breach of trust for the election process; information of this type would be extremely valuable to a campaign seeking to identify how many votes it needed before Election Day. Jurisdictions nationwide safeguard the early and vote-by-mail process to prevent just this kind of misconduct. Of course, these are still allegations – but it’s just the latest indication that something may have been terribly wrong in Bladen County, already the focus of an investigation into the results of the CD-9 race focusing on absentee ballots. There are growing calls for a new election, and this latest development have only intensify those calls. Hold on tight – and stay tuned …