Criminal investigations zero in on Bladen County absentee ballots

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Anchor Allison Latos spoke with the Wake County district attorney who is in charge of a criminal investigation into Bladen County elections.

District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said her office has an open criminal investigation that's zeroed in on absentee ballots in Bladen County in three separate election cycles; last month's general election, the May 2018 primary and in 2016’s election.

[RELATED: Nation's eyes on NC 9th District showdown between Harris and McCready]

The three 2016 investigations in Bladen County include:

  • Possible absentee ballot fraud committed by the political action committee Patriots for Progress IE
  • Possible absentee ballot fraud committed by the Bladen County Improvement Association
  • Voter fraud allegations and possible false statements allegedly perpetrated by McCrae Dowless

Freeman said Tuesday that her office is also looking at last month's general election and the May primary elections, which has now held up the congressional 9th district, and Mark Harris won't be sworn in until the state board of elections administrative investigation is over.

[US House District 9 race investigation: How we got here]

"The allegations seem to be related and involving the same individuals," Freeman said.

The probe focuses on the collection of absentee ballots.

"Specifically, collecting ballots from individuals who voted instead of letting them turn them in is a felony under North Carolina law," Freeman said.

Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson said the county's four-member elections board has the final check of each absentee ballot and the signatures of a notary or two witnesses.

“That voter sends it back to us in the mail or may personally deliver it or a near relative may deliver it for them,” Dickerson said.

Channel 9 uncovered similarities in Bladen County, where the same people signed dozens of absentee ballots.

“My board would probably raise a red flag and say, ‘Who are these people?'” Dickerson said.

The SBI is involved in this criminal case, and they also investigated concerns of voter fraud in Bladen County in 2010.

That case ended up in the attorney general's hands but there was insufficient evidence to file charges.

The state Board of Elections also has an open administrative investigation focused on District 9.

State elections officials said all four election investigators are working the case.

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