The State Bureau of Investigation hasn’t launched the criminal probe that Gov. Pat McCrory requested recently into allegations of voter fraud in Bladen County.
Republicans had filed a complaint claiming that a handful of people there may have improperly submitted hundreds of absentee ballots, while also getting paid for get-out-the-vote efforts by a community group funded by the N.C. Democratic Party.
The State Board of Elections held a hearing on the complaint earlier this month and rejected it, arguing that attorneys for Republicans had not presented substantial evidence sufficient to change the outcome of the election. But they unanimously agreed to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The issue stems from absentee ballots submitted with help from the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC, which received $2,500 from the N.C. Democratic Party for get-out-the-vote efforts. The ballots featured similar handwriting and the same choice for a write-in candidate for soil and water commissioner.
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.
McCrory called for a criminal investigation from the SBI, which he oversees, shortly after the elections board dismissed the complaint.
“We have an obligation to ensure that every vote is counted accurately and that our elections process is conducted legally,” McCrory said in a Dec. 3 news release. “Any verified instance of voter fraud or other illegal activity should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Weeks later, the SBI hasn’t taken action. “The SBI has not initiated an investigation into any election matters from the November 8, 2016 General Election,” agent Eric Hooks said.
Hooks’ comments indicated that a request from the governor isn’t the standard approach the SBI has for launching investigations.
“The State Board of Elections did not make a referral to the Bladen County District Attorney, and therefore the SBI has not received a request that would invoke our duty to investigate an allegation of election fraud,” Hooks said.
The State Board of Elections did, however, submit its findings on two separate Bladen County elections complaints to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
That information includes claims made about the Bladen County Improvement Association as well as another complaint alleging a Republican candidate paid someone to collect absentee ballots that were then submitted without the voter’s consent.
A spokesman for the U.S. District Attorney’s Office declined to provide any information Wednesday.
“I cannot confirm or deny that an investigation is underway concerning those allegations and therefore have no information to be shared,” Don Connelly said in an email.
Colin Campbell: @RaleighReporter