Politics & Government

After ballot fraud case, an NC bill would crack down on one practice that was found

Mark Harris calls for new election in 9th district

Mark Harris called for a new election in the disputed 9th District on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 21, 2019. He said he suffered two strokes in January and is “struggling” to get through the hearing, now in its fourth day.
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Mark Harris called for a new election in the disputed 9th District on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 21, 2019. He said he suffered two strokes in January and is “struggling” to get through the hearing, now in its fourth day.

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Election fraud investigation

Read more about the investigation into the 9th Congressional District

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A bipartisan state House bill filed Monday aims to prevent absentee ballot fraud similar to the allegations made in the 9th Congressional District election.

House Bill 944 would fund three new investigators and two data analysts at the State Board of Elections, and it would make it a crime to pay someone for completed absentee ballot request forms.

Rep. Cynthia Ball, D-Wake, is co-sponsoring the proposal with Reps. David Lewis, R-Harnett, Harry Warren, R-Rowan, and Alison Dahle, D-Wake. She said the changes were recommended by elections board executive director Kim Strach in a recent presentation to lawmakers.

Ball said she’s hopeful the extra staff — which would cost $345,564 — will be funded in the state budget to ensure elections officials have the resources needed to investigate future problems.

“There were times when everybody was out of the office, out investigating what was going on in the (9th) district, and there was hardly anybody at the Board of Elections,” Ball said. “Things just ground to a halt.”

HB 944 also addresses situations like the one in Bladen County, where campaign operatives were accused of paying staff based on the number of completed absentee ballot request forms they turned in. The bill would make that action a Class 2 misdemeanor. County elections boards would also be required to keep records of who turns in ballot request forms.

HB 944 does not include another Strach recommendation that absentee ballots have pre-paid return postage. The cost of that change might make it more difficult to get support for the bill, Ball said. A separate bill filed by Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, includes that proposal.

The Senate is also considering measures to improve the security of absentee ballots. Senate Bill 626 would limit who could assist voters with filling out their absentee ballots — requiring voters in need of assistance to request a team from the county elections office to help. That bill is sponsored by the elections committee co-chairs but hasn’t moved yet.

The State Board of Elections ordered a new election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud. If none of the candidates gets 30 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held.

Follow more of our reporting on The North Carolina election fraud investigation

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