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Bladen County campaigning tactics questioned

READ MORE: Bladen County campaigning tactics questioned
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You've probably seen sample ballots before being handed out by poll workers on election day, already filled out for the candidates they endorse. What you may not have known is that in some places, spots on those sample ballots are for sale to the highest bidder. The endorsement has little to do with where the candidate stands on the issue, and much more to do with how much money the candidate contributed to a Get Out The Vote committee.

We live in a day and age where an election can be decided by a few hundred votes, or in some cases, a much smaller margin. So when a candidate is approached with a way to virtually guarantee 500 to 1000 votes they wouldn't have otherwise, it can be a tempting proposition. Bladen County Board of Elections Chair Ray Britt says that's exactly what Get Out The Vote groups have been promising to candidates in his county for years.

"Get Out The Vote is where a candidate will contribute funding to some group or organization, and the services they receive are transportation for some of the voters, if they don't have transportation to actually get out and get to the precincts and vote...whether it be early voting or on election day it exists at both times, and as well as that, they have people that are there working under the canopies. They will have people that are assisting, as well as handing out sample ballots," explained Britt.

Those sample ballots are already filled out, marked for the candidates endorsed by the get out the vote committee. Voters may naturally assume those endorsements are based on a candidate's political persuasion, but that's not necessarily the case. Britt says candidates tell him it has more to do with how much they're willing to pay to secure a spot on the ballot. In the 12 years that Britt has worked on the Board of Elections, he's had plenty of candidates call him with concerns about this practice.

"They want to do the right thing," Britt says, giving us an example of a typical phone call. "I've been approached by such-and-such a group or committee, and they said that I can participate with their get out the vote, and to be able to get on their sample ballot, I have to contribute x amount of dollars. Is this ethical number one, and is it legal?'"

While a lot of people would say it's not ethical to buy your way onto a sample ballot, it is legal. In some places in our viewing area, the practice is thriving. There are a few heavy hitters in the Bladen County Get Out the Vote arena, like McCrae Dowless, Levi Roberts, and Bernard Robinson. The 3 have all been paid by high profile candidates, like District Attorney contender Butch Pope, Clerk of Court incumbent Niki Dennis, and former Sheriff's candidate Eric Bryan.

Right or wrong, Britt says these Get Out The Vote campaigns have a big impact on the outcome of the elections.
"Personally, I think we have lost a lot of people, primarily because a person newly running for office is not aware of some of these committees or groups, and doesn't know the loopholes or how to go about it," he said. "You take a good person, good morals, good understanding, good community ethics, that would be a good strong person for you, and they're sort of behind the 8 ball, because these groups and committees, the word is not control, but they have a big following, and that's hundreds of votes, maybe thousands of votes, that that person is already in the hole behind."

We tried to reach the candidates mentioned in this story for comment, but Butch Pope, Niki Dennis, and Eric Bryan didn't return our calls. Again, the Get Out The Vote practice is legal, but the way it's being run raises questions we would like to discuss with the candidates.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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BLADEN COUNTY ELECTIONS

WHY DID CHANNEL 3 NOT MENTION "BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE" AND THEIR "SAMPLE BALLOT'S"? McCRAE DOWLESS, LEVI ROBERTS AND BERNARD ROBINSON ARE SMALL FISH IN THE "SAMPLE BALLOT" ELECTIONS OF BLADEN COUNTY. BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE HAS DOMINATED BLADEN COUNTY ELECTIONS FOR 30 YEARS OR LONGER. BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE TAKES HUGE "DONATIONS" FROM ANY CANDIDATE, BUT ONLY SUPPORT THE ONE THEY LIKE, WHICH IS ALWAYS A DEMOCRAT. SHERIFF PRENTIS BENSTON WAS ON THE BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE'S "SAMPLE BALLOT". BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE DISLIKES COMPETITION IN THE "SAMPLE BALLOT" SCHEME. CHANNEL 3 HAS AIDED BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE IN GETTING RID OF THEIR COMPETITION. IF IT IS UNETHICAL TO PAY McCRAE DOWLESS, LEVI ROBERTS AND BERNARD ROBINSON TO "GET OUT THE VOTE", WHY IS IT NOT UNETHICAL TO PAY "BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE"? WHY WAS "BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMITTEE" NOT MENTIONED? IN THE CHANNEL 3 REPORT IS "BLADEN IMPROVEMENT COMMMITTEE" SO POWERFUL THAT THE NEWS IS SCARED OF THEM??

Who is the Bladen

Who is the Bladen Improvement Committee?

Bladen County Campaign Tactics Questioned

Interesting article. Looks like it works based on the last election. At least 2 out of 3 times. What is the point here? There have always been people in every community who hold considerable sway when it comes to how people vote. If one is running for political office, one would be a dummy if they did not meet these people and try to solicit their help in an upcoming election (notice I said solicit not buy). Funny that the chairman of the electins board over in Bladen County did not mention another candidate in the last election that had some pretty big dollar people in his camp. Sad to say but the almighty dollar speaks when election day approaches. God help the people down in Bladen County that this upcoming election will be the beginning of the end for the good ole boy politics that has plagued our elections in the past.

Moral or legal? If the chairman of the board of elections in Bladen County wants to talk about this issue; then he needs to start with the current sheriff department situation in his county. Only a dummy would believe it was morally right for the current interim sheriff to do what he did to the five deputies that he refused to swear back in when he took office. Legally, he was certainly within his rights. So the moral of this story is that what is legally right is not morally right. Anybody with any kind of conscience knows this.

So, where do we go from here? First and foremost, each individual voter must make up in his or her own mind who to vote for in any election. Each voter when approached by anyone trying to buy their vote needs to report it to the board of elections immediately. Each voter must go into that voting booth alone without any help from anyone to cast their vote. Each voter needs to demand that no ballots will be made avaiable to the voting public until each one sees it in the booth when they vote. To get this good ole boy politics thrown out the proverbial window will require that we the voters contact our elected legistators and demand that the general statutes of our state be updated and brought into the 21 century. If they are not willing to do it then bring them back home at the next election and put someone up in Raleigh that will do it. Better yet, just go ahead and make sure the first general statute that is updated is the one that relates to the terms spent in office and that should be two terms. The statute relating to the sheriff (NCGS 162) should state that if the county commissioners have to appoint an interim sheriff then they also have the right to fire the interim sheriff. The elected sheriff, by the vote of the people, can be fired every four years by us the voters.

One other thing on who to vote for in any election. If two candidates are running and one has black hair and one has red hair; and because I have red hair I vote for the red hair candidate I AM WRONG. What if I am a black voter and two black candidates are running and one is dark complected but the other is is light complected and I vote for the light complected bacause I am light complected I AM WRONG. So the truth of the matter is this, that if a black candidate and a white candidate are running for the same office and because I am black I vote for the black candidate I AM WRONG. For our sake and the sake of our cities, counties, states, and our nation; let us as voters begin on November 2 a new day in politics and vote based on the qualifictions of the candidates. That is unless you take advantage of the early voting and by that I do not mean to go out and try to vote twice, THAT IS THE GOOD OLE MAN OR WOMAN politics method. God bless each of us as we cast our votes and God bless those who are elected that they will govern MORALLY AND LEGALLY but always morally first of all.

RACIAL

By reading your comments I got one thing out of your rants and that is you're racial..

Racial???

Racial is defined as:

Of, relating to, or characteristic of race or races.
Arising from or based on differences among human racial groups

This person was saying not to vote based on color. Thus your post makes no sense. SO I GOT ONE THING OUT OF YOUR RANTS AND THAT IS YOU'RE UNEDUCATED.

Reading comprehension is key

Reading comprehension is key here. The poster is actually against racism and encouraging others not to vote for someone simply because of how they look.

Problems with voting groups

I live in Bladen County and I feel that these groups should be banned. They are paid tons of money to endorse individuals who do not care about the real issues of Bladen County they just want the title, publicity, and power that comes with the position. Everyday we hear that by voting we are expressing our opinions and letting our voices be heard, but they are not. Real candidates are pushed to the side because the refuse to play the game and pay out lots of money so they have no chance of being elected. I know for a fact that the people mentioned in the article, such as Nikki Dennis and Eric Bryan brought votes. My next door neighbor was paid and provided a van to go around and get people to vote for them, and hand out those sample ballots that were already marked with their names. Pamela Huff and Rex Gore, honest, hardworking, dependable candidates, never stood a chance in the past race due to these voting groups. I am truly ashamed to call Bladen County my home due to the way this town is being ran. Elections are supposed to be based on the right person for the job who cares about this county and wants to make it better. We now see that elections are about how much money you are willing to pay people to vote for you. This may be legal, but it is far from honest. Will this ever change, will someone step up and clear up this terrible mess?

voting groups

And you need to do a little homework! Honest, hardworking, didn't stand a chance, Mr. Gore, had the 'Bladen Improvement Committee' working hard for him, doing the very thing you're disgusted by. It IS legal and has been used for years, but is just now being talked about. If it is wrong, and maybe should be, the board of elections should have made it illegal years ago. The fault lies there.

You stated that "I am truly

You stated that "I am truly ashamed to call Bladen County my home due to the way this town is being ran". HUH? Bladen County is a County and not a Town.

Dayum!

You wrote "you are willing to pay people to vote for you."

That is not what you meant to say, and as you wrote it, it is not legal.

You meant to say something to the effect that candidates pay people to work for them to get out the vote. That's legal, not paying people to vote. There is a big difference.

People, if you're going to post your thoughts online, check your work before hitting the submit button; otherwise, you come off as less than intelligent.

Get Out The Vote

This is a prime example of what is wrong with Bladen County. You have low lifes like McCrae Dowless helping decide who wins offices. He owes almost everyone that he has ever done business with and won't pay his bills, he takes money from one candidate and then carries people to vote for another candidate in the same race. He rides around with illegal tags, insurance, license and get arrested and is back hauling people in less that 30 minutes, guess having judges, DA and clerk of court has it's good points. If someone doesn't have enough sense to vote by themself then they shouldn't be able to vote, we don't need people who insure dead people decideing who's wins elections and I hope the state puts a stop to this now.

Wasn't Mcrae Dowless also

Wasn't Mcrae Dowless also being paid by State Representative William Brisson when he first ran for state office??? What does Mcrae's legal record look like??