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Maybe ballot security isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Rich Lowry mug

Rich Lowry

Democrats, who were insisting that voter fraud didn’t exist, now believe that it was used to steal a North Carolina congressional seat from them — and they may well be right.

Republican Mark Harris has a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready in the state’s 9th Congressional District, a slender victory that the State Board of Elections has refused to certify given credible allegations of cheating.

A consulting firm working for Harris contracted with an operative named McCrae Dowless based on his get-out-the-vote work, mostly involving his strange prowess with absentee ballots.

Dowless has a shady background that includes criminal convictions and a prior investigation of his election practices. His methods were seamy, at best.

Working from a storefront, he employed a crew to go door to door urging people to request absentee ballots. When they did, his team returned to collect the ballots, purportedly to deliver them to election officials but apparently to hand them over to Dowless first.

This is itself against the law in North Carolina, and rightly so. It destroys any chain of custody and creates the opportunity for more abuse and corruption. There is evidence that Dowless may have availed himself of it.

Bladen County, the largely rural area where Dowless focused his work, outpaced other counties in absentee-ballot requests — with 7.5 percent of registered voters making a request, higher than the 2 percent or so in most of the rest of the counties.

Weirdly, only 19 percent of absentee ballots in Bladen were submitted by Republicans, yet Harris managed to win 61 percent of the absentee vote there. He didn’t win absentees in any other county.

The implication is that Dowless may have pocketed absentee ballots not to his liking, particularly from black Democrats. If so, this would truly be a damnable — and literal — instance of “voter suppression.”

The Harris margin over McCready in Bladen County (162 votes) is considerably less than his overall margin. Yet there was almost certainly illegality in a very close election, and if Dowless was discarding or destroying ballots, the number of affected votes may go higher.

North Carolina law sets a standard for a revote that doesn’t require a finding that cheating changed the outcome. The election board can order a new election if improprieties occurred that “taint the result” and “cast doubt on its fairness.” Pending the conclusion of the board’s investigation, it’s hard to see how that standard won’t be met.

Republicans won’t like it, but they should probably want to start over, for the sake of the integrity of their own nominating process, if nothing else. In the GOP primary for the seat, Harris won an equally narrow victory over the Republican incumbent and an even more smashing Dowless-engineered victory in Bladen absentee ballots, 437 to 17.

The larger lesson here is that people will exploit vulnerabilities in the election system, and it should be as secure as possible. Absentee voting is a particular soft spot. It occurs outside the watch of election officials, and it’s impossible to determine what happens to the ballot in between the time it leaves and returns.

Although usually not as extensive or consequential as what may have transpired in North Carolina’s 9th District, vote fraud often involves absentee voting, and exploiting poor and vulnerable voters. In October, four people were indicted in Texas on 30 felony counts of targeting elderly voters in a fraudulent mail-in voter scheme.

Rules should be rigorous, and it’s insane that the sort of vote harvesting that Dowless engaged in — i.e., a private party collecting the ballots of voters — is perfectly legal in California.

The North Carolina race demonstrates how even relatively small-scale cheating — no one will ever mistake McCrae Dowless for a major player — can undermine faith in our system. And how, if anyone doubted it, voter fraud is real.

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Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry can be reached at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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(9) comments

PhysicsIsFun

Democrats never said that voter fraud did not exist. They said in person voter fraud was rare and had no impact on elections. Numerous extensive studies proved this to be true, yet Republicans pushed through Voter ID laws to stop a nonexistent problem. These voter ID laws were, by Republicans' own admission, actually designed to repress Democratic Party voters. The crimes committed by Republicans in North Carolina are a different type of voter fraud. Lowry tries to conflate the two, and make it look like Republicans are the good guys. As usual Republicans are on the wrong side of both of these types of illegal voting activities. The Republican Party is a criminal conspiracy.

martian2

Lowry claims democrats said there was never any vote fraud. Where is heck does he come up with that. Democrats in states like Wisconsin claim there was little if any vote fraud in their state. Republicans have never proved there was massive voting fraud and thereby we needed new voter suppression laws. Many republican lawmakers have admitted the purpose of these voter suppression laws was to lesson minority and democratic votes. Voting fraud had nothing to do with it. But as in North Carolina and other areas in the country we see how politicians, mainly republicans, are committing outright fraud with the way they handle elections. Perhaps we needs laws that would hinder republicans from voting. then maybe we can have a true democracy where the true will of the people is carried out.

oldhomey

Hmm. The GOP is using actual voter suppression tactics to counter entirely bogus charges that there is widespread vote fraud in the form of non-citizens illegally voting and people using false identification to vote multiple times, though there is absolutely no evidence that these are widespread practices. They are made up for the purposes of eliminating votes from legitimate people the GOP do not want to vote. It is having a significant impact on election results, particularly when combined with other GOP measures of vote suppression, like gerrymandering, shifting voting sites at the last moment, bogus "clean-ups" of voter rolls.

The example Lowry uses here, curiously, is vote cheating done on a large scale locally, apparently through the good graces of GOP powers-that-be. Yes it should be stopped, as Mr. Lowry suggests, but it should not be cited as a reason for supporting other forms of GOP (or Democratic, for that matter) voter suppression, which he is clearly doing.

Rick Czeczok

We keep creating ways more voter fraud can take place, like early voting for anyone without reason, mail in ballots, and allowing voters without ID's. Seems like it would be pretty easy to clean it up. Just a thought, no need to slam a suggestion, maybe you can think of other positive ways to help end the discrepancies.

oldhomey

Tell us, Ricky, exactly what are all these new ways of more voter fraud? Tell us more about all the massive voter fraud you know to be taking place. Fill us in how early voting is a creation that expands ways more vote fraud can take place.

People as far as I can figure it out are registered at their precincts. Early voting (which I have only done once) is a convenience that allows people to choose when to vote. If they vote early, it is so noted on the registrar of the precinct in which they vote. They can't return on other days to vote. They would be barred from casting a vote, and if they raised a stink, they'd be liable for arrest.

Tell us, do you think the government has a right to demand a reason for why a person is voting other than that it is their constitutional right to do so? Give us the reasoning for your thoughts in that regard.

Tell us some more about all these people coming in and voting without having any identification. Is this some huge cesspool of a problem that you know needs to be cleaned up? This is just a thought on my part. I wasn't aware that there is evidence of this being a huge, widespread problem. So my thought is that if you know it to be so, why don't you provide us with some facts that it is so?

And what are these "discrepancies" you allude to? This is just a thought, too. Far be it from me to slam you, I just want to know what it is that you are talking about, backed up with some real, actual facts. Then we might be on the same page and we could noodle this thing out together.

Rick Czeczok

I'm not going to fall for your antics. Have a Merry Christmas and I wish you well.

oldhomey

My "antics"? I straight-forwardly asked you to defend some statements that you made as though they were facts. I don't believe they are facts at all, and apparently you don't. either, because you are trying to duck out in answering me. If you had the facts, you would provide them and make me look bad. Simple as that. Once again, as usual, Ricky, you simply make yourself look bad.

capedcrusader

Well, you said it seems it would be pretty easy to clean it up". What is your ideas for doing so and why would you have to have a reason for voting early? Voting should be reason enough shouldn't it whether it's early or on Election Day? How about if we make Election Day a Federal Holiday and do away with Columbus Day? I believe in making it easy for people to vote and maybe this would be an easier way for people to get there. I know you don't like answering my questions but what say you on this?

capedcrusader

Don't feel bad oldhomey, he never answers me... maybe we should just ignore him like someone suggested. That way he can discuss things with himself and always feel like he won something.

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