Records show Bladen voter’s absentee ballot was turned in but not counted

Woman's ballot turned in but never counted

BLADENBORO, NC (WBTV) – A Bladen County woman turned her absentee ballot into the county board of elections on election day in November 2018 but her ballot was never marked as having been received, records show.

Lee Ann Herring, a Republican, turned her absentee ballot into the Bladen County Board of Elections office on November 6, 2018.

A log of absentee ballot drop-offs maintained by the elections board shows Herring signed her ballot in.

But Herring’s ballot is not marked as having been received on a list of absentee voters in the 2018 general election provided to WBTV by the Bladen County Board of Elections.

Nor is she listed as having voted in the 2018 general election in the online voter database maintained by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Herring said she walked her ballot into the board office on election day and was told she needed to sign her ballot by Jens Lutz, a Democrat who was then serving as Vice Chairman of the Bladen County Board of Elections.

“When I got through, he came over there and he said ‘are you through?’ And I said ‘yes, sir.’” Herring recounted in an interview Thursday. “He said ‘alright,’ he said, ‘have a nice day,’ and over there back he went.”

Lutz did not respond to a detailed text message seeking comment for this story.

Herring said she thought she had done everything necessary to cast her ballot in the election.

This log shows Lee Ann Herring dropped off her absentee ballot at the Bladen BOE on Election Day 2019.
This log shows Lee Ann Herring dropped off her absentee ballot at the Bladen BOE on Election Day 2019.

She said that the fact that there is no record of her vote having been counted makes her not want to participate in future elections.

“It’s like taking a part of you, your independence, your rights have just been demolished,” she said.

“It made me mad. It still makes me mad,” Herring continued.

On Friday afternoon, a day after this story was first published, a spokesman for the NCSBE said the agency’s investigators located Herring’s ballot in a stack of other ballots at the state board’s office.

The spokesman insisted the ballot had been counted but could not provide any proof in support of his assertion other than that the ballot was found in a stack of other ballots that had been counted.

It remains unclear whether Herring’s ballot was counted and, if so, why there was no record of her having voted in the November 2018 election.

The revelation about what happened to Herring’s ballot come as the NCSBE and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation continue probing allegations of election fraud in Bladen and Robeson Counties.

Herring said she has spoken to SBI agents but had not been contacted by investigators with the NCSBE.

The allegations being investigated have kept the 9th Congressional District race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready from being certified.

Harris has filed a legal petition asking a judge to order the race—in which he won by 905 votes—be certified.

Lee Ann Herring's voter history on the NCSBE website shows she did not cast a vote in the 2018 general election.
Lee Ann Herring's voter history on the NCSBE website shows she did not cast a vote in the 2018 general election.

A hearing on that petition is scheduled for Tuesday, January 22 in Wake County.

Democratic leadership in the US Congress has indicated they would take steps to block Harris from being seated even if his election was ordered certified by a judge.

Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who chairs the House Committee on Administration, sent a letter to the NCSBE last week asking all evidence in the board’s investigation be preserved for a potential future investigation by Congress.

Following the initial publication of this story, Republican Party leaders were quick to seize on the new report as reasons why Harris should be certified as the winner of the election.

“In our press conference this week, we stated Congressman-Elect Mark Harris should be certified. Now, the evidence shows exactly why Democrats were quick to bury the Harris campaign under a wave of affidavits: they were engaged in irregularities and absentee ballot tampering in an effort to illegally influence the Ninth Congressional District race," NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement.

“Congressman-Elect Mark Harris should be certified by the court on Tuesday , and Congress should accept the certification,” Hayes statement said.

This story has been updated with additional information provided by the NCSBE regarding Herring’s ballot, which was discovered one day after this story was first published.

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