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'A troubled history': Bladen County, N.C., has faced 5 elections investigations since 2010

Brian Murphy, Carli Brosseau and Anna Douglas, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The investigation into voting irregularities in the 2018 election in Bladen County is, at least, the fifth elections case since 2010 in the rural eastern North Carolina county.

"Bladen County has a troubled history of political groups exploiting the use of absentee ballots in an effort to skew support for a specific candidate or group of candidates," wrote Jon David, district attorney for Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties, in a Jan. 26, 2018 letter to the State Bureau of Investigation's interim assistant director.

"These groups package the anticipated ability to garner absentee ballots as a commodity to be brokered."

Bladen County is at the center of an investigation into possible election fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, which has yet to be certified by North Carolina's nine-member State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

A 2010 case, investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation and referred to the Attorney General's Special Prosecutions Unit, was closed in 2013 without any criminal charges being filed, David told The News & Observer in an email.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper was attorney general at the time, but the Special Prosecutions Unit would have decided whether to bring charges.

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In November 2016, the state board opened cases into three different groups in the county, according to a letter from David to the interim assistant director of the State Bureau of Investigation. The three cases are:

--Possible absentee ballot fraud committed by Patriots for Progress IE PAC, a conservative group founded in 2014.

--Possible absentee ballot fraud committed by the Bladen Improvement Association PAC, a Democrat-backed group.

--Voter fraud allegations and possible false statements to affect election outcomes allegedly by McCrae Dowless, who worked as a contractor for Republican Mark Harris' 2018 congressional campaign.

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