BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — State lawmakers are scrambling to know what exactly happened in Bladen County that now has a race for Congress in limbo.
WWAY’s Andrew James looked into issues between the county and the State Board of Elections that date back nearly a decade.
Thursday, key Republican state senators shared their thoughts on the fallout and unearthing of potential tampering in another North Carolina election.
“We are once again being embarrassed in this state that our elections don’t count,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker (R) of Union County, which is in the 9th Congressional District.
That’s the case right now for several races from the federal to the local level. All because of potential election fraud in Bladen County. Last week, the State Board of Ethics and Elections voted 7-2 not to certify the race and to hold a hearing on questions about absentee ballots in Bladen County.
“If Republicans committed fraud, they need to be held accountable,” Sen. Tucker said. “In fact we need to hold our own accountable. The same is true for the Democrats.”
Senators place some blame on the State Board of Elections. They demand a bipartisan task force step in to investigate the 9th Congressional District race.
“So we want to follow the governor’s lead on this,” Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg County) said. “However, there is reason to doubt the capacity of the State Board of Elections.”
The senators come to that conclusion after repeated issues with unusual voting numbers and data from Bladen County, irregularities, that go back nearly a decade.
Bladen County Commissioner Ray Britt served 15 years as the county elections board chair. In 2010, he alerted the state of eight votes from a nursing home believed to be fraudulently handled. However, by the time he left the board in 2015, he says he never heard back from the board.
“The answer was still it’s not been resolved,” said Brittm, who adds that the eight ballots still sit in a safe at the Bladen County Board of Elections.
State board officials told our Charlotte affiliate WBTV the investigation was closed in 2013. Britt, five years later, says it’s the first time he or anyone who blew the whistle on the issue heard that.
“I stand behind I didn’t know, the board didn’t know, the director didn’t know and the nursing home didn’t know, so I just question how it was done.”
Britt would not say if a new election is needed yet. State lawmakers echoed that.
Britt, however, adds that it’s not a crime to help people vote, but if it’s found that those votes were tampered with he says the solution can’t be simple.
“Now if you go and get ballots and then do something with those ballots, so be it. I don’t care if it’s my son. It is what it is. You pay the price.”
Sen. Tucker and Sen. Bishop agree that time behind bars should be an option if the evidence points to criminal behavior.
”If someone needs to go to jail, then they should go to jail,” said Sen. Tucker.
WWAY reached out to the board for comment and is waiting to hear back.
The state board continues to update us with evidence it reviews in the investigation. They plan a hearing no later than December 21.