CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Three Republican Senators from North Carolina are calling on Governor Roy Cooper to create a bipartisan task force to investigate voting irregularities spanning multiple election cycles, including the 2016 gubernatorial election.
Senator Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Tommy Tucker (R-Union), and Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) are calling for a bipartisan task force because they believe the group would be “better equipped to conduct a legitimate probe.”
“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," said Sen. Bishop. "We need a bipartisan task force to conduct an investigation free from any charges of politically-motivated actions.”
Allegations of voting irregularities in Bladen County were sparked last week when affidavits surfaced regarding absentee ballots being collected for money.
Much of the public scrutiny has centered on a man named McCrae Dowless, who was paid by the Harris campaign as a contractor for the candidate’s top consultant.
Dowless has come under fire in recent weeks over questions surrounding work he did in promoting absentee voting for Mark Harris, a Republican who beat incumbent Congressman Robert Pittenger in the primary and Democrat Dan McCready in the general election for the 9th Congressional District.
Harris beat McCready by nearly 1,000 votes. He carried Bladen County by 1,557 votes.
But WBTV has uncovered evidence that points to coordinated efforts by two other groups to target absentee voters.
On Tuesday, WBTV exclusively obtained a set of handwritten notes reportedly made by a Bladen County businessman and local elected official that outlined a plan to pay people in exchange for collecting unsealed absentee ballots.
Separately, WBTV has also pieced together documents that shows a third group, the Bladen Improvement Association Political Action Committee, paid individuals who are also recorded as having both collected absentee request forms and witnessed absentee ballots.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker, during the press conference in Raleigh Thursday. “We need to drive voter fraud out of the state.”
Questions surrounding voter irregularities in Bladen and Robeson counties has kept members of the North Carolina State Board of Elections from certifying the results of that race and others.
Last week, the board voted to hold an evidentiary hearing in the matter before the end of the year.
The allegations are apparently behind this week’s decision by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Reform to not certify the results of the congressional race in the 9th District.
“The allegations in the Congressional race make me sick," said Sen. Tucker. "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.”