I have a few thoughts in the aftermath of the North Carolina State Board of Election’s hearing on the 9th District congressional race and its decision to call for a new election there.
Three-and-a-half days was not enough
The hearing ended a day too soon. The board’s sudden vote ended the process before the full extent of alleged ballot harvesting in Bladen and Robeson counties during the 2018 election had been presented. That was a missed opportunity.
There have long been reports of absentee ballot problems in Bladen County, with reports of ballot harvesting (the illegal gathering of absentee ballots) by Dowless and the Bladen County Improvement Association, among others.
The Wake County District Attorney’s office is conducting its own investigation based on the 2016 and 2018 elections. I hope that its investigation will be more extensive that what we saw from the State Board of Elections.
The start of a new 9th District saga
North Carolina will be treated to two special elections for Congress this year (the other being for the 3rd District seat of the late Walter Jones).
There will likely be a new primary as well as a new general election for the seat. I say “likely” because former NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr claims that the law passed last December stipulating that any new election in the 9th District would also have a new primary is an ex post facto law, which violates both the US and North Carolina constitutions. Orr is a supporter of the Democratic nominee in the 9th District, Dan McCready. This raises the possibility that we will see the next 9th District battle in the courts rather than at the ballot box.
Ballot harvesting needs to be made “more illegal”
All of the allegations of absentee ballot tampering or destruction start with one thing: ballot harvesting. As I have previously noted, ballot harvesting “involves political operatives going to people who have requested absentee ballots but have not yet voted, collecting those ballots, and (presumably) delivering them to the local board of elections.”
While ballot harvesting is illegal in North Carolina, current laws allow political operatives to engage in it undetected in all but the most egregious cases. The North Carolina General Assembly should make specific changes to our voting laws to combat ballot harvesting, including making it illegal to submit large numbers of absentee ballot requests, banning political operatives from witnessing absentee ballots, and making absentee ballot requests private until the voter has submitted his or her ballot or election day.
This week’s hearings are further proof that we need absentee ballot reform before the 2020 election.