Who Targeted McCrae Dowless?

May 22, 2020 (Raleigh) Besides generating more than 700 unique hits to our website, last week’s expose on some strange “mistakes” made by DOJ career employees in Raleigh’s US Attorney office also generated a flurry of new evidence that begs for a criminal investigation.

It started when two media outlets ran news stories featuring confidential documents they somehow obtained, either from the NC State Board of Elections (NCSBE) or from the Bladen County Board of Elections (BCBE).

The documents contained PDF images of witness signatures on the backs of absentee ballot envelopes. According to BCBE Director Christopher Williams, G.S. §§ 132-1.2(4), 163-82.10(a), and 163-230.2(a1) prohibit a county from releasing such records “unless the voter signature and any confidential information are redacted.”

Why only 159?

While 1,366 absentee ballots requested in Bladen that election, only 159 of them were leaked to a WSOC-9 television reporter named Joe Bruno, who then posted them and triggered a massive crowd-sourced research project. [Note: VIP loves crowd-sourced research, but not if it comes off a tree bearing poisoned fruit.]

The signatures all belong to people working for McCrae Dowless. None of the remaining 1,207 were leaked.

The documents showed exactly which Bladen County voters might be able to incriminate Dowless. Bruno demonstrated the kind of help he needed by knocking on doors and filming at least one sensational interviews.

This may seem like inside baseball, but the funny thing about investigations into leaked documents is the date of the leak. In addition to Bruno an on-line publication also “obtained” the (162) documents named Judd Legume, “obtained” similar documents. The date of his story (which quoted the partisan activist Gerry Cohen) was also December 3, 2018.

Legume’s report added more context about the documents by helpfully noting they had been “impounded” and, that witness signatures are “confidential” with public release only allowed after either a  “court order or order of the appropriate board of elections as part of [a public] resolution” (See NCGS §163-165.1(e)),

On December 4, Bladen County Commissioner, Ray Britt told VIP that NCSBE Director Kim Strach and her Investigations Chief, Joan Fleming, arrived at BCBE offices for a private meeting with BCBE Board Vice-Chairman, Jens Lutz.

A Charlotte (NC) newspaper said Lutz was the “elections official who raised public concerns about someone tampering with ballots in Bladen County.” He had also “served in recent years as chairman of the Bladen County Democratic Party.”

Three days after he met with Strach and Fleming, Lutz resigned from his Board membership, saying “things have gotten out of hand.”

As VIP reported in June (2019), Bladenbooro Mayor, Rufus Duckworth recorded a phone call to Joan Fleming that confirmed was still using Lutz’ assistance in her investigation long after he resigned.

The NCSBE didn’t bother releasing the previously leaked documents (Exhibit until February 7, 2019, in a treasure trove of documents from either Bladen or Robeson (but not Mecklinburg) Counties.

Questions Abound

  1. When did a court or appropriate board vote to release the documents?
  2. Were confidential documents illegally given to media?
  3. How was the leak investigated?
  4. Who’s going to do something about it?