North Carolina has a long history of election fraud, although not the kind being debated in the halls of the legislature. The way elections have historically been stolen in North Carolina is through the use of absentee ballots for obvious reasons – not only are there no photographs required but the “voter” doesn’t even have to show up in person. For decades the Democratic organizations that ruled North Carolina would ship thousands of absentee ballots to machine-controlled mountain counties thatwould provide as many votes as were needed.
The 1920 governor’s race was almost certainly stolen that way. The machine-backed candidate, Cameron Morrison, finished second when the voting was completed on Election Day. But after 11 days of counting absentee votes trickling in from the mountain counties, he was declared winner of the Democratic nomination by 87 votes. That was at a time when North Carolina was a one-party state and Democratic factions stole elections from each other.
During the 1936 Democratic primary for governor, the state Board of Elections, controlled by the Democratic machine, sent out 108,250 absentee ballots in a runoff in which 480,000 votes were cast. Most were sent to mountain counties. A 1944 study found that the statewide percentage of absentee ballots cast was 6.7 percent, but in hard-fought mountain counties such as Clay it was as high as 26 percent.
Typically when absentee voting started, both parties contacted certain voters to see if they wanted to vote absentee. One label for these voters was “floating voters.” According to one mountain Democrat, whoever obtained the majority of those voters usually won.
Old mountain pols say the tradition of using absentee ballots to help steal elections continued into modern times.