It’s time to Break It Down!
For years the GOP has pushed for Voter ID. The professed reason? To stamp out voter fraud. The thing is, numerous studies conducted by a variety of researchers, across numerous years and elections have found that given the number of elections and voters, voter fraud occurs at an infinitesimally small rate. Here are several examples:
The Brennan Center’s seminal report on this issue, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
A study published by a Columbia University political scientist tracked incidence rates for voter fraud for two years, and found that the rare fraud that was reported generally could be traced to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
A comprehensive 2014 study published in The Washington Post found 31 credible instances of impersonation fraud from 2000 to 2014, out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. Even this tiny number is likely inflated, as the study’s author counted not just prosecutions or convictions, but any and all credible claims.
Two studies done at Arizona State University, one in 2012 and another in 2016, found similarly negligible rates of impersonation fraud. The project found 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud nationwide from 2000-2012. The follow-up study, which looked for fraud specifically in states where politicians have argued that fraud is a pernicious problem, found zero successful prosecutions for impersonation fraud in five states from 2012-2016.
A review of the 2016 election found four documented cases of voter fraud.
Research into the 2016 election found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
A 2016 working paper concluded that the upper limit on double voting in the 2012 election was 0.02%. The paper noted that the incident rate was likely much lower, given audits conducted by the researchers showed that “many, if not all, of these apparent double votes could be a result of measurement error.”
A 2014 paper concluded that “the likely percent of non-citizen voters in recent US elections is 0.”
A 2014 nationwide study found “no evidence of widespread impersonation fraud” in the 2012 election.
A 2014 study that examined impersonation fraud both at the polls and by mail ballot found zero instances in the jurisdictions studied.
Just when the data suggest that the facts fly in the face of the GOP’s most assiduous and far-flung arguments, emerging evidence in the Old North State appears to support a strong case for, wait for it…voter fraud. There is, however, a notable deviation from the oft-spouted storyline. If early indications are accurate, this is a Republican scam. Oops!
After a day short of a month, since the midterm elections, the quest continues to determine a victor in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Republican Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes after all the ballots were counted. However, state officials are now investigating allegations about tampering with absentee ballots; many of which were signed by the same group of people – an unusual pattern that may indicate improper activity. To add to the intrigue, a locally known Republican consultant who was previously convicted of fraud and an absentee ballot collector who alleges she was paid, are involved. In the balance…hangs a congressional seat.
So, what’s the deal in my Tar Heel state? Here’s the CliffNotes version. The State Board of Elections is a bi-partisan body composed of 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and 1 unaffiliated voter. The group has voted twice to investigate this matter; the first time unanimously, and the second time with 2 Republican members voting no. The Board’s discussions have been in closed sessions up to this point.
According to six affidavits, there was a scheme to harvest and complete absentee-by-mail ballots, many of them unrequested. The key principal in the investigation, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., is an elected official, vice chair of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District. Dowless is also an electioneer with a criminal past. His crimes of record extend back to the 80’s and 90’s.
In this instance, Dowless’ name surfaced because of the affidavits. In one, an individual claims to have heard Dowless say he’d be paid $40,000 if Mark Harris won. In another affidavit, a person claims Dowless told him he was doing “absentee” for Mark Harris and Jim McVicker, the Bladen County Sheriff. According to that affidavit, Dowless had 80 people working for him, from Cumberland County (Fayetteville) to Charlotte.
Dowless has worked in political circles at least as far back as 2010, when he worked for a Bladen County District Attorney candidate. He was paid, primarily, for get out the vote efforts. Records also show he worked for Pete Givens, a Charlotte City Council candidate. According to the Charlotte Observer, Harris introduced Givens to Dowless.
Mr. Dowless was not always affiliated with Mark Harris. Campaign Finance records show he worked for Todd Johnson in the 2016 Republican Primary for the 9thDistrict. Though Johnson finished last in the Primary, he finished first in Bladen County. Delving deeper into voting records reveals Johnson received 98% of the absentee-by-mail votes, totaling 221. Mark Harris received 4 votes. Incumbent Robert Pittenger received 1 vote.
In 2018, Dowless was hired to work for the Harris Campaign. The firm that hired him, Red Dome, has been paid $428,000 from the Harris Campaign. The disbursements listed include administration and staff and grassroots. In the 2018 Primary, Harris amassed considerably more than 4 votes. Similar to Johnson in 2016, he rolled up a huge advantage in absentee numbers, totaling 437 of the 456 of the absentee-by-mail votes. Pittenger, the incumbent, received only 17 votes.
In the General Election, against McCready, Harris received 61% of the absentee votes (even though Republicans comprise only 19% of the ballots submitted). Bladen was the only county in the 9th District in which Harris received more absentee votes than McCready. According to an analysis by Dr. Michael Bitzer of Catawba College, Harris garnering 61% of absentee votes meant that in addition to the less that 20% of loyal Republicans who voted absentee, Harris would have also had to receive almost all the registered unaffiliated votes, as well as some of the registered Democrats’ votes.
Among irregularities in Bladen County, eight people were found to have signed as a witness for at least 10 ballots. Three people signed for at least 40 ballots. Ginger Eason said McCrae paid her $75 to $100 a week to pick up absentee ballots. This is illegal. She didn’t turn the ballots in to the Board of Elections; she gave them to McCrae Dowless. The State Board of Elections also refused to certify two local races in Bladen and Robeson counties.
At this point, the end does not appear to be in sight. If the State Board of Elections orders a new election, the same three candidates, Mark Harris, Dan McCready, and Libertarian Jeff Scott will be on the ballot. If the incoming U.S. House of Representatives orders a new election, there will be a new filing, primary, and general election. Federal law requires a minimum of 45 days for absentee voting. The State Board of Elections has determined there will be an evidentiary hearing on or before December 21. The Board has not set a timeline for when everything must be completed. Members have said they are aware that the House swearing-in occurs on January 3rd.
There’s more, of course, but this should be more than enough for you to get the gist. I cannot fathom that this was what the GOP hoped to establish, but here it is…”North Carolina Voter Fraud: Apparently It Really Is A Thing!”
I’m done; holla back!
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