Three people were arrested in eastern North Carolina this week on voting fraud charges after the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation into incidents during the May 2018 primaries. They join the five people, including McCrae Dowless, indicted on absentee ballot fraud charges earlier this year.
In addition to the ballot harvesting that caused the NC State Board of Elections to overturn the 2018 9th Congressional District race, there have been other problems with various forms of election fraud across the state. The Heritage Foundation has compiled a list of 30 incidences of criminal convictions or overturned elections due to election fraud over the past 16 years.
The criteria Heritage uses to warrant inclusion of their list of election fraud cases are highly restrictive, meaning that their list includes just a small sample of the actual incidents of election fraud that happen in North Carolina. As with other crimes, only a portion of acts of election fraud result in conviction. There are cases of reported election fraud that are not even investigated by elections officials. When election officials do report incidents of election fraud to law enforcement there is usually no action taken:
[Former State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary] Bartlett said he referred “more than half a dozen” cases of apparent fraud involving absentee ballots, but no action was taken by law enforcement. “We don’t know what happened on the other end because once we provided the information to state or federal (authorities) we don’t do a thing unless they ask,” he said…
Bartlett said he referred alleged absentee fraud cases for investigation in Yancey, Bladen, Robeson, Mitchell, Swain and Columbus counties without action being taken. He said state and federal law enforcement officers have been aggressive in prosecuting violations of elections laws by officials, such as former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, House Speaker Jim Black and state Rep. Thomas Wright, “but if it’s on a lower level, it may get handled and it may not.”
Confidence of the integrity of elections in North Carolina is low. An Elon University poll conducted earlier this year found that half of North Carolinians believe election fraud is a “major problem,” while only eight percent believed that it was “not much of a problem.”
To restore both the perceived and actual integrity of North Carolina’s electoral system, election and law enforcement officials must be more diligent in enforcing current election law. The General Assembly must do its part by strengthening laws against absentee ballot fraud and other forms of election fraud.