'Things have gotten way out of hand': Bladen Co. BOE vice chair resigns

BLADEN COUNTY, N.C — Jens Lutz, vice chair of the Bladen County Board of Elections, has resigned, he confirmed to Channel 9 Saturday morning.

In an email to North Carolina State Board of Elections Director Kim Strach, Lutz cited family as one reason for his resignation.

Lutz was the Democratic Party chair for Bladen County for two years.

“Sometimes in life, circumstances reach the breaking point, especially when you’re trying to do the right thing,” Lutz wrote. “It becomes even more difficult when your family is (dragged) into the drama, plus your own party begins to attack you for compromising and common-sense decisions. I regret having to do this, but things have gotten way out of hand.”

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In a 30-minute phone call with Channel 9, Lutz largely declined to comment on the ongoing election fraud investigation.

He said his resignation has nothing to do with legalities or anything related to the investigation.

Lutz, a Democrat and former chair of the Bladen County Democratic party, has ties to McCrae Dowless, who is a person of interest in the election fraud investigation.

Records show in 2014, Lutz and Dowless started an LLC together, named Politico Management Services. At the time of the company’s start, Dowless was a Democrat, Lutz said.

Lutz described the organization as a political consulting firm. but Lutz declined to say who their clients were because it may be a part of the NCSBE’s investigation.

“No one knew how he operated,” Lutz said. “He was a very secretive person. Nobody knew what he did. They knew he was productive.”

Lutz said he severed the relationship with Dowless after he started to get suspicious of his activities.

He said the knowledge he gained from working with Dowless helped him during his time on the board of elections.

“I do everything by the book,” Lutz said. “Once I see something is not 100 percent, I would rather not be a part of it. There were several people aware of what I was doing and at the time McCrae was a Democrat, I was a Democrat."

Lutz confirmed he has spoken to Strach and chief investigator Joan Fleming as part of the ongoing election fraud investigation.

He also told Channel 9 he spoke to the U.S. Postal Service, which offered its assistance in the investigation.

Lutz declined to say whether anyone with the Bladen County Board of Elections was complicit with Dowless' activities.

He claims to have been sounding the alarm about of a lack of security surrounding the board of elections office.

A July 2018 report on the Bladen County Board of Elections prepared by the Department of Homeland Security shows concerns about the office’s security.

The report says the facility has an interior camera system that doesn’t work.

Lutz told Channel 9 the security cameras inside the elections office haven’t worked for nine years and the building does not have an alarm system.

In Bladen County, the board of elections shares an office with the veterans' services office.

People in the veterans' services office have 24-hour access to the interior of the elections board’s office, according to Lutz.

The Department of Homeland Security recommended the veterans services office be relocated.

“This arrangement creates several potential security and safety risks for elections facility personnel and sensitive voting materials are vulnerable,” the Department of Homeland Security wrote.

Lutz said the board unanimously voted to ask the county commissioners for funding to make improvements, but the commission never considered it.

This election cycle, Lutz says he notified the NCSBE about suspicious activity after the board of elections received reports from people getting absentee ballots and not requesting them.

“That’s a pretty big red flag,” Lutz said.

Lutz declined to say why this was happening, citing the investigation, but he described a hypothetical situation in which it could happen.

“Let’s just say somebody from previous elections (has) a database that they kept and they got copies of the absentee requests with vital information from the voter on it. Then this person can use that, if they are skilled enough to copy people’s signatures,” Lutz said.

Several affidavits obtained by Channel 9 referenced people getting absentee-by-mail ballots that they did not request.

Evidence uploaded by NCSBE shows more than 181 undeliverable mailings were sent to absentee voters in Bladen County.

Reasons included "no such address" and "not deliverable as addressed."

Lutz declined to say whether there should be a new election, but he said he has full confidence in the NCSBE.

“I think finally, anything that would have been done is going to be done now,” Lutz said.

As far as future changes, Lutz believes information on whose absentee ballots were requested and issued should remain private until after the election.

The information is currently public.

“If you are savvy at this operation, you would know the time it takes (for) it (to get) from the post office to their house,” Lutz said. “All of the sudden, you show up at a person’s house and say, ‘Hey, I am here for your absentee ballot.’ No. 1, it stuns them that you know it is there, and they are apt to give it to you. They may think you are an official.”

Lutz said if the report is confidential until after the election, it is impossible to run an absentee ballot operation.

After seeing reports of people receiving absentee ballots that they did not request, Lutz made warning posts on Facebook.

“A lot of people don’t know the election laws, and they don’t understand the procedures of this,” Lutz said. “If they are presented with someone who knows more than they do, they seem to succumb to that person.”

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