NCDP Clips 12/5/18

Today’s daily clips from the NCDP

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The North Carolina fraud investigation: What we know and what could come next
WAPO // Philip Bump // December 4, 2018

Summary: What’s particularly remarkable about the fraud investigation unfolding in North Carolina, centered on the results of the state’s 9th Congressional District contest last month, is how quickly the alleged effort to collect absentee ballots from voters and possibly alter or destroy them came to light. Part of this, as elections expert Michael McDonald pointed out on Monday, is a function of the state’s transparency about ballots cast and returned. Part of it is that any effort involving more than a handful of people offers lots of opportunities for details about a scheme to come to light. Part of it appears to be how obvious the anomalies in voting patterns were.

The Republicans’ post-midterm strategy: Thievery
WAPO // Dana Milbank // December 4, 2018

Summary: After the Republican Party’s losses in 2012, GOP elders undertook an “autopsy” to discover the cause. This year, Republicans have opted instead for a good embalming. After a midterm drubbing that cost Republicans about 40 House seats — the best Democratic performance since the Watergate era — there has been, as the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin put it, “little self-examination among Republicans” nor any effort by leaders “to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it.” There is good reason for this: As long as President Trump is in office, those voters probably aren’t coming back to the party, whose base of older white men may well have hit its high-water mark in 2016.

Former friend of McCrae Dowless: ‘He indicated he knew the election laws better than the board of elections did’
WECT // Kailey Tracy // December 4, 2018

Summary:  The investigation into voting irregularities in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race between Mark Harris and Dan McCready continues. The district includes Bladen and Robeson counties and leaders in Bladen County are saying this has happened before. There were allegations of fraud involving absentee ballots in 2016. During that investigation, allegations were revealed detailing campaign workers paying others to collect unsealed absentee ballots.

Channel 9 looks into Harris’ political consulting firm
WSOC // Mark Becker // December 4, 2018

Summary: Channel 9 looked learned Mark Harris paid a political consulting firm in Huntersville. That firm then hired McCrae Dowless, the man at the center of the investigation. Eyewitness News reporter Mark Becker looked into that firm and the critical role it could play in this case.

North Carolina Woman Admits to ‘Harvesting’ Ballots for Mark Harris Operative
Roll Call // Griffin Connolly // December 4, 2018

Summary: A North Carolina woman on Tuesday admitted to illegally “harvesting” ballots for a campaign operative working for GOP candidate Mark Harris in the race for the state’s 9th District U.S. House seat. Ginger Eason, a Bladen County resident, told a reporter for WSOC-TV on Tuesday that she had done campaign work for Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who paid her $75 to $100 per week to collect absentee ballots in the county and deliver them to him. It is illegal in North Carolina for a third party to turn in absentee ballots.

US House District 9 race investigation: How we got here
WSOC // Staff // December 4, 2018
Summary: North Carolina election officials are investigating potential wrongdoing in the U.S. House District 9 race. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of nearly 283,000 votes cast in all or parts of eight south-central counties encompassing the 9th District. The results have not been certified, and the election is now in limbo after allegations of improper bonuses and ballots surfaced.

GOP hit with election fraud claims after using issue as rallying cry
Politico // Elena Schneider // December 4, 2018
Summary: Fighting voter fraud has been a Republican rallying cry for years. But the GOP now finds one of its own candidates at the center of the biggest alleged election fraud in recent memory. North Carolina’s Board of Elections has postponed certifying election results in the state’s 9th Congressional District, where Republican Mark Harris holds a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready — and a contractor working for Harris’ campaign has been accused of collecting and filling out hundreds of voters’ absentee ballots.

Incoming majority leader says House should consider not seating North Carolina Republican amid election-fraud investigation
WAPO // Staff // December 4, 2018

Summary: Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Tuesday that there is a “substantial question” about the election in the 9th Congressional District, where GOP candidate Mark Harris held a slim lead over Democrat Dan McCready. State investigators are examining the work of a local operative in a growing fraud investigation that has delayed certification of Harris’s narrow win. Hoyer said unless the questions are resolved, the House should hold off on letting Harris take the oath of office on Jan. 3 when new members are sworn in.

Notes suggest second person ran absentee ballot operation in Bladen County
WBTV // Nick Ochsner // December 4, 2018
Summary: Handwritten notes obtained by WBTV suggest a second person ran an operation focused on absentee ballots in Bladen County in the 2018 primary election. The notes came from two people who collected the sheet of paper after a meeting on April 8, 2018 to discuss efforts in the primary race for Bladen County Sheriff.

Election fraud allegations in NC congressional race: What we know (and what we don’t)
N&O // Brian Murphy, Ely Portillo // December 4, 2018

Summary: One month after Election Day, all eyes are on North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Republican Mark Harris scored an apparent victory in the district, defeating Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in November. But North Carolina’s state board of elections has not certified the results of the election, citing irregularities among mail-in absentee ballots. The board plans a hearing on or before Dec. 21. The 9th district stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville, hugging the South Carolina border. It is currently represented by Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican whom Harris defeated in May’s Republican primary.


Robeson County sounded alarms last summer – now state is investigating election
N&O // Brian Murphy, Josh Shaffer ,Richard Stradling // December 4, 2018

Summary: The investigation into election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District now includes at least two counties — Bladen and Robeson. Investigators from the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement returned to the Robeson County Board of Elections on Tuesday to collect more information about the local board’s procedures. The state board had earlier collected absentee ballot envelopes and the identification of at least one person who dropped off absentee applications.

Fact Check: Could the NC election investigation affect the Mark Harris win?
N&O // Paul Specht // December 4, 2018

Summary: The North Carolina elections board is investigating voting irregularities in the congressional race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. The race was expected to be among the closest in the country and unofficial results put Harris ahead of McCready by 905 votes. But the N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement on Nov. 30 declined to certify those results after the legitimacy of some ballots from Bladen County area were called into question.

Gov. Cooper tours Spring Lake homes damaged by Hurricane Florence
WRAL // Staff // December 4, 2018

Summary: It’s been almost three months since hurricanes Florence and Michael caused severe damage to homes across the state. On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper surveyed the damage to homes in Spring Lake. Bob and Barbara Blakeney have lived in their home off Vass Road for 50 years, but the recent storms have chased them out.

Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity Receives $1.5M for Hurricane Victims
Spectrum News // Jared Thompson // December 4, 2018

Summary: Gov. Roy Cooper announced that the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity is getting $1.5 million in state funds to help hurricane victims. The money will go towards continuing infrastructure planning of the Oakridge Estates homes. Forty-seven single family houses will soon sit on more than 14 acres of land. “I look forward to all that we’re going to do to respond to these storms and build back our state stronger and better than before,” Gov.  Cooper said.

Gov. Cooper tours homes damaged by floodwaters, asks for additional funding
WRAL // Gilbert Baez // December 4, 2018

Summary: It’s been almost three months since hurricanes Florence and Michael caused severe damage to homes across the state. On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper surveyed the damage to homes in Spring Lake. 


How Republicans cheat
The Week // Ryan Cooper // December 5, 2018

Summary: Republicans got absolutely hammered in the 2018 midterms. Democrats picked up 40 seats in the House, extirpated the GOP from former Republican strongholds like Orange County in California, flipped seven governorships, and took control of seven state legislatures. This shellacking has brought one of the signature Republican political tactics into stark outline: cheating. In response to Democrats winning state-level races, GOP state legislative majorities are rushing to strip those seats of their powers. In other states where Democrats won a sizable majority of votes, Republican gerrymandering preserved lopsided conservative majorities. And in North Carolina’s 9th District, it increasingly seems like a Republican operative straight-up rigged the election. That brings me to North Carolina, where the hideously gerrymandered legislature is considering a bill to ensure a Republican always chairs every county election board through the preposterous contrivance of giving them all the “even-numbered” years — that is, when all the elections happen. But more remarkably, a snowballing scandal has engulfed Mark Harris, the Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. In the initial election results, he defeated Democrat Mark McCready by a mere 905 votes — but it looks very much like Harris was the beneficiary of absentee ballot fraud. The scandal centers around a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for the Harris campaign as an organizer in Bladen County — and was convicted of fraud and perjury back in 1990. Nevertheless, Harris knew him personally and recommended his services to other Republican politicians.

9th Congressional District investigation hangs over voter ID debate
WRAL // Laura Leslie, Matthew Burns // December 4, 2018

Summary: Tempers flared among House members Tuesday afternoon during a three-hour committee hearing on legislation setting the rules for the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Senate Bill 824 cleared the House Elections Committee on a 17-9 party-line vote and is expected to get its first debate on the House floor Wednesday.

Bill tinkers with salary for state job sought by retiring legislator
WRAL // Travis Fain // December 4, 2018
Summary: Legislation that emerged Tuesday tinkers with the salary for a new state position that a retiring House member has applied for, after Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration pushed for lower pay. The measure would let the Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council set the salary for its new executive director, a position the General Assembly created last year but has gone unfilled and seen its posted salary range change at least twice.

Here’s how much voter ID could cost in North Carolina

N&O // Casey Toth // Lynn Bonner // December 4, 2018
Summary: It would cost the state about $17 million over five years to implement a new voter ID requirement, according to a legislative staff estimate released Tuesday. Costs include voter education, temporary jobs at the State Board of Elections, equipment for local boards of election, and special IDs the state DMV would provide free. “We’re very serious about this and we’re prepared to put the money behind it,” said Rep. David Lewis, the Harnett County Republican shepherding the bill through the House.

Opioid addicts are dying from the South’s new Lost Cause
N&O // Ned Barnett // December 4, 2018

Summary: North Carolina is one of a dwindling number of states — now down to 14 and almost all in the South — that refuse to expand Medicaid under “Obamacare.” Holding Out is the new Lost Cause of the old Confederacy. It’s a doomed determination to block expansion, mostly because it would broaden the signature accomplishment of President Obama. Given the depth of Republican opposition, there is perhaps little point in again appealing to their compassion, logic and political self-interest, but here goes anyway. The political base of the General Assembly’s legislative majority is in rural North Carolina. Those areas are also where the opioid epidemic has hit North Carolina the hardest. Since 1999, more than 12,000 North Carolinians have died from drug overdoses. In 2017, drug overdoses from opioids and other drugs in North Carolina increased 22.5 percent over 2016, the second highest increase in the nation. To ease this scourge in the places they represent, Republicans should support what is proving to be essential — Medicaid expansion. 


State should stay out of ‘embarrassing family conflict’ with fire station, Wake says
N&O // Anna Johnson // December 4, 2018

Summary: A legislative bill has Wake County leaders and a lame-duck North Carolina representative at odds over the future of a rural fire department. N.C. Rep. Nelson Dollar filed House Bill 1110 last week to give the Ten Ten Fire District more autonomy after Wake County recommended closing one of its two fire stations earlier this year and moving part of the district’s fire service to a proposed station in Garner. After residents rallied around the more than 50-year-old station, Wake County promised not to close it until a long-term study on fire coverage within the county.

A tale of two states
Up and Coming Weekly // Jeff Thompson // December 3, 2018

Summary:  “Electoral districts drawn fairly by professionals tend to produce results that reflect the political makeup of the state’s voters, and the way they vote.” The Associated Press reached that conclusion following an extensive analysis of 2018 voting patterns in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The A.P. found that electoral districts drawn by politicians with the aim of keeping themselves in control tended to produce results that bore little resemblance to the state’s real political balance or the way voters cast their ballots. Cumberland County’s House of Representatives District 45, held by Republican John Szoka, is one of nearly 100 legislative districts across the state that a new lawsuit alleges violates the North Carolina Constitution. The suit contends North Carolina’s legislative maps were designed, or gerrymandered, to guarantee that Republican candidates would win a majority of the seats in the state House and Senate.


NC Elections Board Is In Flux, Examining Possible Vote Tampering In Tight Congressional Race
WUNC // Rusty Jacobs // December 4, 2018

Summary: “The Republican legislative leadership has done everything they can to not work with the governor and has tried to strip his power every way they can,” said Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Goodwin demanded the elections board be allowed to complete its investigation into possible vote tampering in the 9th congressional district race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. The uncertified results have Harris leading McCready by 905 votes.

Democrats cry foul after election-fraud claims in North Carolina
WAPO // Staff // December 4, 2018

Summary: North Carolina’s Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin is calling for a full investigation into claims of election fraud in the 9th Congressional District race.


Florence creates greater need at Durham Rescue Mission this Christmas
WRAL // Rick Armstrong // December 5, 2018

Summary: The impact of Hurricane Florence still ripples through North Carolina — and also among Triangle area charities. According to chief operating officer Rob Tart, this is the busiest time of year at the Durham Rescue Mission.  “We always try to have a big event for the community,” he said of the Durham Rescue Mission’s huge basement pantry, which is the foundation for every dining hall meal. “When you’re feeding 300 to 400 people three meals a day every day, you can go through a lot of food fast.”

SBA extends deadline for disaster loans
StarNews // Ben Steelman // December 4, 2018

Summary: The U.S. Small Business Administration has extended deadlines to apply for low-interest disaster loans in the wake of Hurricane Florence. The new deadline is Dec. 13 for loans to repair physical property damage. The deadline for loans related to economic injury is June 14, 2019.

Grant revives stalled Fayetteville Habitat for Humanity housing project
Fayettville Observer // Paul Woolverton // December 4, 2018

Summary: Seven months after a 47-home Habitat for Humanity low-income housing project in west Fayetteville was halted due to a funding problem, construction has resumed with a $1.5 million state grant. The grant comes from Hurricane Florence disaster assistance funds the state legislature approved this year, said spokesman Keith Acree of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management. The grant requires the Habitat project to provide at least 15 of its homes to people whose residences were moderately to severely affected by either Hurricane Matthew in 2016 or this year’s Hurricane Florence, said Tammy Laurence. Laurence is the chief chief executive officer of Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity.

Hurricane Florence made history, breaking 28 flood records in the Carolinas
N&O // Abbie Bennett // December 4, 2018

Summary: Hurricane Florence devastated the Carolinas, and now scientists have the data to back up what Carolinians suspected in the wake of the storm. Florence was a historic storm, breaking 28 flood records across North and South Carolina, according to a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Data from at least 18 USGS streamgages in North Carolina and 10 in South Carolina show what the USGS calls “peaks of record.”



UNCW scientist, lawyer warn Wilmington residents have much to learn about GenX
StarNews // Adam Wagner // December 4, 2018

Summary: A local scientist warned Tuesday that the Wilmington region is just beginning to grasp the threat posed by GenX and similar chemicals. “This is one of those onion-type mysteries where you peel back one layer and you find more, and you keep peeling and you find more,” said Larry Cahoon, a University of North Carolina Wilmington biologist, warning that while the region’s concern about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) may have started with GenX, scientists have discovered several additional compounds they understand even less. Both Cahoon and Ted Leopold, the lead attorney of a class action suit against Chemours, told an audience of about 100 people at Cape Fear Community College’s Union Station that even now, nearly a year-and-a-half after the public first learned its drinking water was contaminated, the process of understanding and fixing the problems are still in their early days.

Silent Sam 

UNC grad student activist is arrested again following Monday’s Silent Sam protest
N&O // Jane Stancill // December 4, 2018

Summary: UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student and activist Maya Little was charged with inciting a riot and assaulting an officer following Monday night’s protest against the university’s proposed plan to return the Silent Sam statue to campus. The charges are misdemeanors. Little, 26, turned herself in Tuesday at the Orange County Courthouse, according to UNC police. She was not arrested at the scene of the protest, in which hundreds of people marched through downtown Chapel Hill and to the base of the boarded up pedestal where the Confederate statue stood before it was toppled by protesters in August.
‘Sheer cowardice’: Board of Governors member rejects UNC’s Silent Sam proposal
N&O // Jane Stancill // December 4, 2018

Summary: The proposal to return the Silent Sam Confederate monument to a new $5.3 million building at UNC-Chapel Hill is “sheer cowardice,” a member of the UNC system’s governing board said. Thom Goolsby, a lawyer from Wilmington and former Republican legislator, released a video on YouTube on Tuesday, sharply critical of the Chapel Hill campus Board of Trustees’ proposal to construct a university history and education center to house the controversial statue. “Neither the right nor the left is happy,” Goolsby said in the video. “If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to anyone.”

Trump/Russia Probe

Mueller recommends no prison for Flynn, citing cooperation
WRAL // Chad Day, Eric Tucker // December 5, 2018

Summary: President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel’s Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn’s cooperation as “substantial.” The filing by special counsel Robert Mueller provides the first details of Flynn’s assistance in the Russia investigation, including that he participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors and cooperated extensively in a separate and undisclosed criminal probe. But the filing’s lengthy redactions also underscore how much Mueller has yet to reveal.


Our view: Make getting ID cards simple

Blue Ridge Now // Editorial Board // November 30, 2018
Summary: North Carolina voters have spoken, and by a margin of than 55.5 to 44.5 percent they approved a state constitutional amendment calling for voters to have photo IDs to cast ballots. A measure that passed the NC Senate with bipartisan support is a good start to carrying out the amendment without disenfranchising any voters. The measure would expand the number of permitted ID from what was allowed under previous legislation. Valid forms of identification would include student IDs from public and private colleges and universities and community colleges, as well as employee ID cards for state and local governments. Those IDs must meet certain security thresholds.

Editorial: Federal court vacancy has gone Farr enough
WRAL // CBC Opinion // December 4, 2018
Summary:  Thomas Farr, again, isn’t a federal judge. The Eastern Judicial District of North Carolina has been without its full complement of judges for 4,721 days, about 13 years – the longest-standing judicial vacancy in the nation’s history. It is a distinction of dereliction of duty. Toward the close of the 2016 campaign, Republican Sen. Richard Burr bragged, in a closed-door meeting with GOP activists, “I had the longest judicial vacancy in the history of the United States – on the Eastern District of North Carolina. Not many people know that.”

OPINION: Time to reform state’s unjust bail system

StarNews // Lori Messinger, Roberta // December 5, 2018
Summary: In the United States, we are all supposed to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Yet, about 70 percent of people sitting in local jails across our country have not been convicted of a crime, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. In North Carolina that number jumps to 86 percent. They remain locked up simply because they cannot afford to pay the bond that would allow them to be released until their court date. Under North Carolina’s unjust cash bail system, when people are arrested – even wrongly – they must pay hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars to be released before their court date. If they can’t afford to pay their bail, there are only two bad options: Turn to a for-profit bail bonds company that will charge a non-refundable fee and potentially trap them in years of debt; or stay locked up, waiting days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years for their case to move through court. Those who stay in jail can lose their jobs, their homes, and custody of their children.

JON CAMP: Quest for an honest shot at justice in N.C.
WRAL // CBC Opinion // December 1, 2018

Summary: Next week a trial will begin that reveals a deeply troubling loophole in North Carolina law. After a capital crime the only two people who can request an independent state investigation are the sheriff and the district attorney. No one else – not a judge, not another district attorney, not a member of Congress, not the state attorney general – can involve the State Bureau of Investigations. It must be the sheriff and DA form the county where the crime took place. Let that sink in.

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