African-American organizations are the subject of many of the 12 absentee ballot complaints Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign announced this week.
Those complaints – at least five of which hadn’t been filed by Thursday evening – involve groups that received funding from the N.C. Democratic Party and assisted voters with filling out absentee ballots.
The first complaint was filed in Bladen County, where the elections board is expected to meet Friday to review concerns about hundreds of absentee ballots there. Those ballots appear to be filled out with assistance from the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC, which received $2,500 from the N.C. Democratic Party for get-out-the-vote efforts.
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It’s legal to help someone fill out their absentee ballot, but the person assisting must sign a disclosure on the ballot form. Several Improvement Association workers didn’t sign the disclosure even though they wrote the name of a write-in candidate on behalf of the voter.
That prompted Republican scrutiny of groups in 11 other counties that received similar funding from the Democratic Party in October. Campaign finance records show that the party donated a total of $69,000 to 14 different political action committees involved in voter outreach.
They include the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Henderson-Vance Black Leadership Caucus, Northampton County Black Caucus and the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association PAC.
Asked to explain the funding, N.C. Democratic Party spokesman Jamal Little said the party “gave contributions to various registered PACs that report to the State Board of Elections to support get out the vote efforts.”
The North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, a nonprofit with ties to labor groups, said Thursday that the complaints appear to be racially motivated.
“The election challenges that have been filed are in areas where we have strong African-American political organizations,” executive director Melvin Montford said in a news release. “Calling these votes into question is an obvious effort to cast doubt on election results with no good reason to do so and disenfranchise black voters.”
Asked about Montford’s claim, McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said that “we didn’t pick the places the Democrats seem to have chosen to commit voter fraud. We’re following the money from the N.C. Democrat Party and they are now throwing up smokescreens to try and hide their activities.”
Bladen County Improvement Association PAC President Horace Munn, said Thursday that his group’s workers – who receive a gas and food stipend for assisting absentee voters – weren’t aware of the requirement that they sign the ballot.
Munn said all of the voters who received assistance are black and “don’t like going to the polls because of intimidation.”
“We’ve been targeted, and it’s really sad,” he said. “There was no malicious act.”
Munn said the group encouraged voters to support candidates endorsed on its sample ballots – including the write-in candidate for soil and water commissioner – but it helps voters cast absentee ballots regardless of their political preferences.
In Franklin County, the GOP complaint involves a group called the Franklin County PAC, which it does not accuse of wrongdoing. It says an NC GOP employee, Emily Weeks, wasn’t allowed to view the absentee ballots to check for potential problems. The complaint says that a Democratic Party payment to the PAC indicates a possible “scheme to operate an absentee voting mill.”
A McCrory campaign staff member was allowed to view absentee ballots in Halifax County and found that two people had served as witnesses signing multiple absentee ballots. That practice – common for workers assisting absentee voters – is legal.
The complaint there targets C.E.E.S. PAC, another group with funding from the Democratic Party. That PAC is part of the Coalition for Education and Economic Security, a group that has fought school segregation issues in Halifax. A Board of Elections hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Friday morning.
The expanded number of complaints will likely further delay the process of certifying election results, which currently have Democrat Roy Cooper leading McCrory by about 5,000 votes. Counties can’t finalize their election results until all complaints are resolved, according to a memo from the State Board of Elections.