State Election Board Email Exposes Dirty Secret

Who knew . . . ??!!

Ballot harvesting really is legal in NC!

June 3, 2019 (Raleigh) Ballot harvesting is legal in North Carolina, as long as you get your story straight.  But here it is: State election officials accidentally outed their dirty secret a few weeks ago and then tried to bury it.

We first learned of their blunder in an early Election Day phone call from McCrea Dowless, the alleged ringleader of

GOP Chair Allison Powers

an absentee ballot harvesting scheme in Bladen County. His harvesting became the excuse for “show trials” that cast him as the villain. He said the BOE’s new ballot envelope language proved his innocence.

Evidently, Union County GOP Chairman Allison Powers agreed with Dowless’ assessment and complained about it at a County BOE meeting that same morning.

They both noticed some additional wording in the “Voter Assistance” section of the absentee ballot envelopes that tells how a “near relative or verifiable legal guardian” can help the voter fill out their ballot.

The new wording told how the ballot envelope can be taken to “the closest US Mail depository or mailbox” by those same people . . . or by someone who claims . . .

I am providing assistance because a near relative or legal guardian is unavailable to assist the voter.”

(Click on the above image to review the Degraffenreid’s entire March 28, 2019 email.)

McCrea Dowless

Powers never saw the tiny loophole hidden in Subsection 1 of §163A-1298 and she was hot.

“We just threw out an election, because they claimed that Dowless had harvested these ballots,” Powers said. “If it was okay for other people to touch the ballots, why did they go after Harris?”

Good question.

Dowless knew the loophole well. Both he and his rivals at the Bladen Improvement Association had based their entire ballot harvesting programs on it. And data suggests even bigger Democrat ballot harvesting operations in Robeson and Mecklenburg, but the SBOE only went after Dowless. Why?

Start spin cycle

The trouble all started with a March 28 email, directing the eight County BOEs holding the May 14 election to create

Veronica Degraffenreid, the only hero in this story, was discredited for telling the truth.

a sticker with the statutory language and place it over the “Voter Assistance Certification” block. It came from SBOE Director of Operations, Veronica Degraffenreid, an employee since 2008. She deserves a medal.

But, 46 days later, at 1:37 PM on Election Day, SBOE Deputy General Counsel Katelyn Love fired off a damage-control email discrediting her own co-worker’s prior guidance while possibly misrepresenting state election law.

SBOE’s Katelyn Love

With additional media spin, everyone went back to sleep . . . except for maybe Degraffenreid, who had been thrown under the bus. They implied she went rogue, citing an “administrative error” and mentioning a “final version of the sticker [was] approved by this agency” that included “disability.” We asked what was legally incorrect about their original guidance.

And what about disability? Besides the fact that it’s never mentioned in §163A-1298, Love’s spin didn’t explain how verifying one’s disability is even enforceable. As a poll observer, I was always told that it was against medical privacy laws to question curbside voters about their health.

Floundering SBOE Credibility

What does this embarrassing disclosure say about their investigation into the 2018 election that barbecued Republican Congressman Mark Harris after his 905-vote win? Wasn’t ballot harvesting a big deal back then? Or was it only a pretense?

During (former) Director Kim Strach’s opening statement at those hearings (see transcript p.18), she solemnly told the packed room (and the three-TV-station audience) that, “only a voter or a voter’s near relative can return the ballot to the County Board of Elections or mail the ballot.”

(Former SBOE Director Kim Strach, from Feb 18, 2019 investigative hearing transcript)

. . .  we want to make sure that only the voter is the person, or the voter’s near relative, that maintained custody of that ballot until it is in the hands of the Board of Elections for counting.

Section 8 of their own absentee voting instruction says otherwise. For years, we’ve heard the same language, whenever a DA or election official explained why they couldn’t prosecute nursing home ballot harvesters, like the well-documented case in Hoke County that went nowhere.

Fun fact: There are 45,189 licensed nursing home beds in NC.

Hidden time bomb?

To see the future of legalized ballot harvesting in NC, we should study the past. Last November, in California, one county’s election office received more than 250,000 provisional and absentee ballots, harvested after the polls closed. They flipped four Congressional races from “R” to “D,” causing former House Speaker Paul Ryan to lament, that he “can’t begin to understand what ballot harvesting is.”

Californians now understand. Their laws are rigged to allow corrupt money to surprise a lot of elected winners a few days after the polls close. “But don’t worry. That’s just California,” the con artists say.

Meanwhile, in NC, our SBOE’s preferred myth, and the basis for their costly do-over election, was that ballot harvesting is legal in California, but not in North Carolina. Thanks to their own mistakes, we now know that anybody, as in A-N-Y body, in North Carolina can handle an absentee ballot?

Now, what are we going to do about this?

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