The popular public radio show “This American Life” investigated claims of fraudulent absentee ballots in Bladen County this week on its Christmas episode.
Radio producer Zoe Chace traveled to the southeastern North Carolina community to check Republican claims that an “absentee ballot mill” had submitted hundreds of ballots filled out by a small group of people paid by the N.C. Democratic Party.
Chace interviews N.C. Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse: “Picture a southern party boss: It’s probably Dallas – white guy in an Oxford shirt, bottom buttons undone, loafers, no socks,” Chace says in introducing Woodhouse.
She points to studies showing that voter fraud is rare, which Woodhouse dismisses as the work of “a bunch of knucklehead, pointy-headed professors.”
Chace also tracked down one of the Bladen County voters who submitted an absentee ballot with help from the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC. The PAC, a longtime African-American advocacy group, paid volunteers a small stipend to help voters cast absentee ballots.
But the volunteers failed to sign a required disclosure that they’d helped, and Republicans noticed similar handwriting on many of the ballots – prompting the complaint that the State Board of Elections eventually dismissed.
Lula Pearl Graham says she appreciated the absentee voting help because “sometimes it’s difficult to get around.” She said voting is important to her because her parents were in the Civil Rights march in Selma, Ala., and that she trusts endorsements from the Bladen County Improvement Association in races where she doesn’t know the candidates.
The story also mentions complaints about Republican get-out-the-vote efforts in Bladen that resulted in claims that some voters had absentee ballots submitted on their behalf – without their permission.
The State Board of Elections voted earlier this month to send all Bladen County complaints to the U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, but a spokesman for the agency said Thursday that the documents haven’t yet been submitted to prosecutors.
Listen to the “This American Life” story below: