In October, during the final stretch of the congressional election in North Carolina’s Ninth District—one of the most tightly contested House races in the nation—Datesha Montgomery opened her door, in Bladen County, to find a young woman who explained that she was collecting absentee ballots. “I filled out two names on the ballot—Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education,” Montgomery wrote in an affidavit. Under North Carolina law, only voters themselves are allowed to handle or turn in their ballots, but the woman at Montgomery’s door “stated the [other races] were not important.” Montgomery added, “I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time.”
Earlier this week, Montgomery’s complaint, along with four other sworn statements, and a sixth which was not notarized, were submitted to the North Carolina election board by a lawyer for the state’s Democratic Party. These affidavits, which were first reported by the Charlotte TV station WSOC, contain the following allegations: a woman going door to door saying “she was assigned to the district to collect absentee ballots”; one instance of an unrequested absentee ballot arriving at a voter’s house; “improper” election monitoring at a polling site; unusual “coding” on absentee ballots; and two men separately saying that they overheard people talking about payments to a local political operative working for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris. As of now, these anecdotes are, of course, purely allegations. But state officials have begun to explore whether these testimonies could help explain statistical irregularities in the absentee-vote count for the Ninth District, which had previously been called for Harris over his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, by a margin of nine hundred and five votes (out of around two hundred and eighty thousand cast).
North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District begins in the Democratic suburbs of Charlotte, but the gerrymandered counterweight, which has kept the seat in Republican hands since 1963, is a rural Republican stronghold stretching east along the South Carolina state line. It is here, in Bladen County and the neighboring Robeson County, that the problems began. Steve Stone, the chairman of the Robeson County Board of Elections, told the Washington Post that election officials became concerned in August by people dropping off large numbers of registration forms and absentee-ballot requests. He said that county residents had also made reports of people going door to door, telling voters that their registrations had been dropped, that they needed to re-register, and that they should sign an absentee-ballot-request form. The large number of complaints prompted state investigators to seize completed absentee-ballot-request forms and envelopes from both counti