N.C. elec­tions board chair­man re­signs amid fraud probe

Demo­crat doesn’t want to dis­tract as 9th Dis­trict tally is in­ves­ti­gated

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY AMY GARD­NER amy.gard­[email protected]­post.com

tar heel, n.c. — The Demo­cratic chair­man of the state elec­tions board in North Carolina re­signed Satur­day, say­ing he did not want his par­ti­san views to un­der­mine a widen­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged elec­tion fraud in the 9th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict race.

Andy Penry, chair­man of the nine-mem­ber State Board of Elec­tions and Ethics En­force­ment, said in a state­ment to the board ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Post that he was step­ping away to al­low the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to con­tinue “free of at­tempts at dis­trac­tion and ob­struc­tion so that the truth can be re­vealed.”

Penry has fielded crit­i­cism from North Carolina Repub­li­can of­fi­cials, who have pointed to his Twit­ter posts — which in­clude a num­ber of tweets highly crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Trump — as ev­i­dence that the board’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion is par­ti­san and base­less.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion of crim­i­nal con­duct and ab­sen­tee vot­ing fraud in the 2018 Repub­li­can pri­mary and 2018 gen­eral elec­tion in con­gres­sional Dis­trict 9 is a mat­ter of vi­tal im­por­tance to our democ­racy,” Penry wrote in the state­ment. “I will not al­low my­self to be used as an in­stru­ment of dis­trac­tion in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Penry’s de­ci­sion came af­ter the nine-mem­ber elec­tions board — which in­cludes four Democrats, four Repub­li­cans and one un­af­fil­i­ated voter — agreed unan­i­mously Tues­day to de­lay cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the re­sults in the 9th Dis­trict elec­tion amid al­le­ga­tions of an ef­fort to fill in or dis­card the ab­sen­tee bal­lots of Demo­cratic vot­ers.

Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris, who beat in­cum­bent Rep. Robert Pit­tenger in the pri­mary, leads Demo­crat Dan McCready in the race by only 905 votes, ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial re­turns.

On Fri­day, the state board voted 7 to 2 to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing the fraud al­le­ga­tions, leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­ity that a new elec­tion could be called. The As­so­ci­ated Press an­nounced it was re­vok­ing its pro­jec­tion that Har­ris won the seat in south­east­ern North Carolina.

The in­quiry fur­ther roiled a state al­ready di­vided over is­sues of vot­ing rights, voter sup­pres­sion and fraud.

In a state­ment Fri­day, Har­ris ac­cused the elec­tion board of a lack of trans­parency and called for the re­sults to be im­me­di­ately cer­ti­fied.

“Make no mis­take, I sup­port any ef­forts to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and fo­cuses on all po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” Har­ris said. “But to date, there is ab­so­lutely no pub­lic ev­i­dence that there are enough bal­lots in ques­tion to af­fect the out­come of this race. Ac­cord­ingly, the Board should act im­me­di­ately to cer­tify the race while con­tin­u­ing to con­duct their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Any­thing else is a dis­ser­vice to the peo­ple of the Ninth Dis­trict.”

The state board has col­lected at least six sworn state­ments from vot­ers in ru­ral Bladen County, near the South Carolina bor­der, who de­scribed peo­ple com­ing to their doors and urg­ing them to hand over their ab­sen­tee bal­lots, some­times with­out them be­ing filled out. Oth­ers de­scribed re­ceiv­ing ab­sen­tee bal­lots by mail that they had not re­quested.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.