NC elections board releases 2016 case file detailing Bladen election fraud investigation

NC elections board releases 2016 case file detailing Bladen election fraud investigation

ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections released its case file from an investigation into voting irregularities in Bladen County in 2016.

The case file was released Wednesday as NCSBE staff proves similar irregularities in Bladen and Robeson Counties.

The file, which totaled 278 pages, included text messages, pictures and written reports from investigators that the board said was evidence of potential election-related crimes.

NCSBE staff send the evidence to state and federal prosecutors in January of this year as part of a renewed effort to prompt a federal investigation.

The board had previously voted to refer the matter to prosecutors in December 2016.

NCSBE releases case file

The board investigated activities of two main groups of people who conducted coordinated efforts surrounding absentee ballots in 2016: a man named McCrae Dowless and the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC.

Both groups were also active in 2018; Dowless worked for Republican Mark Harris in the 9th Congressional District and the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC received thousands of dollars from the NC Democratic Party. Records show two women paid by the PAC were involved in absentee ballot efforts in 2018.

The NCSBE has refused to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District race, citing voting irregularities in Bladen and Robeson Counties.

The board has scheduled an evidentiary hearing to hear the findings of an ongoing investigation into the 2018 irregularities on January 11, 2019.

Among the key findings and conclusions reached by NCSBE staff were the following:

-McCrae Dowless paid workers to bring him absentee ballots.

-Dowless attempted to obstruct NCSBE’s investigation by directing people who worked for him to give a specific story to state investigators.

-NCSBE found potential improper assistance given to voters by Bladen County Improvement Association PAC.

Text messages included in the material released by the NCSBE on Wednesday show workers reportedly being paid by Dowless submitted absentee ballot request forms on behalf of voters and, in at least one case, marked a ballot for a voter.

“Yo, do you care who you vote for?” a worker asked a voter in a text message.

“I got ur ballot in the mail. Who do u want for president?”

The documents released Wednesday also include an interview with Michael Cogdell, a Democrat who sits on the Bladen County Board of Commissioners and has been an active members of the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC.

In the interview, Cogdell admitted to signing at least one absentee ballot cover as a witness. Elected officials and candidates are not allowed to serve as an absentee ballot witness; there is a disclaimer saying as much on the ballot cover.

According to the notes released Wednesday, Cogdell said he was unaware of the laws that prohibited him from acting as a witness.

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