Senate Republicans question former Elections chairman about contact with Bladen Co. Democrat after WBTV investigation

Senate Republicans question former Elections chairman about contact with Bladen Co. Democrat

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) – Two Republican members of the North Carolina Senate are seeking answers to questions regarding communication between the then-vice chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and a Bladen County Democrat in the days leading up to and on election day in 2018.

The communication was first unveiled last week by a WBTV investigation.

Public records show Josh Malcolm—who was vice chairman of the NCSBE and, later, became the board’s chairman in December before it was disbanded by a court order—was in frequent contact with a man named Jens Lutz, who served as vice chairman of the Bladen County Board of Elections until his sudden resignation in early December.

Malcolm and Lutz are both Democrats.

Records show the two men exchanged text messages or talked on the phone on thirteen different days between early April and the end of November.

The frequency of the communication picked up as election day approached, records show.

According to text messages produced by Malcolm, the two spoke about Lutz’s concerns with potential voting irregularities on October 2. The text messages show Malcolm referred Lutz to the NCSBE’s chief investigator.

Less than two weeks later, the two men talked on the phone in a call made by Lutz to Malcolm.

Call records produced by Malcolm show he called Lutz on November 3, 5 and 6.

Malcolm refused an interview request from WBTV and did not issue a statement; having, instead, a NCSBE spokesman issue a statement response to the station’s questions.

Lutz would not tell a WBTV reporter the nature of the phone conversations he had with Malcolm.

The frequent contact between the two men has now caught the attention of two Senate Republicans, Harry Brown (Onslow) and Kathy Harrington (Gaston), who sent a letter to Malcolm on Friday seeking answers to questions about his communication with Lutz.

“In the interest of full transparency, we request you answer the following questions regarding your relationship with Mr. Lutz and the nature of your communications,” the letter said. “Specifically, we are interested in knowing whether you and Mr. Lutz discussed apparent ballot irregularities before the 2018 election.”

The letter includes 11 questions for Malcolm, largely seeking details on the nature of his conversations with Lutz and why he was initially reluctant to produce certain communication records to WBTV.

Malcolm made the motion that led to the 9th Congressional District election between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready not being certified.

Staff at the NCSBE continue to investigate allegations of election fraud in Bladen and Robeson Counties, focusing particularly on the handling of absentee ballots.

“Your actions as well as the actions of former Chairman (Andy) Penry call into question whether any investigation handled by the State Board of Elections could be carried out objectively,” the letter said.

The letter also forecast the possibility of legislative hearings into “current and past allegations of illegal election activity.”

A copy of the letter was also sent to Governor Roy Cooper’s office.

An email seeking comment from Cooper’s press office was not returned Sunday afternoon.

Similarly, an email seeking comment sent to staff at the NCSBE—who have produced records and spoken on Malcolm’s behalf on this topic for weeks—did not immediately provide a statement in response to a request for comment.

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