As news continues to break about possible voter fraud in North Carolina’s 9th District congressional election, we’re seeing emails and comments with a similar theme: Aha! Voter fraud! Don’t voter ID opponents (and you, the Observer editorial board) say that fraud is almost non-existent? No, we don’t say that. But the voter fraud that exists is the one Republicans in Raleigh don’t much want to talk about. First, what we’ve said: Voter ID laws primarily deal with protecting elections from in-person voter fraud, meaning someone going to a precinct and attempting to vote as someone else. That kind of voter fraud is rare — in 2016, the state Board of Elections found that 4,769,640 votes were cast in November and that one (1) would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law.
What may have happened in the 9th District — and specifically Bladen County — is a different kind of fraud. There, according to two editorial board sources, the board of elections is investigating whether an individual gained access to absentee ballots for the November election, perhaps through voters who requested them from the county or state. Those ballots were filled out for Mark Harris, who defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. The number of absentee ballots cast in Bladen was less than Harris’ overall margin of victory.
Sources say that same individual was investigated two years ago for similar allegations, and as WFAE’s Steve Harrison reports, Harris won a startling 96 percent of the Bladen absentee vote in his 2018 primary victory over then incumbent Robert Pittenger. There are several questions to be answered about what happened there, including whether the Harris campaign knew of the work potentially being done on its behalf.