The Columbus County Board of Elections reports that absentee ballot requests are expected to skyrocket this year, and with those extra absentee ballots come a lot of opportunities for fraud.
“It’s our job to make sure every single voter who is legally eligible to do so casts a ballot,” said Carla Strickland of the BOE. “You should never allow someone you don’t know to mail your absentee request or ballot.”
Strickland urged voters to make sure that the voter, a family member, or a member of the board of elections assistance team place mail-in ballots in the post office, or hand-deliver them to the board of elections.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure that everyone who requests an absentee ballot gets one,” Strickland said. “We need voters to do their part and make sure only people they know and can trust handle those requests, and that’s only if the voter cannot do so themselves.”
Ballot harvesting — the practice of soliciting voters to fill out request forms or absentee ballots, which are then collected and turned in by campaign workers — was one of the factors that led to the state tossing out the Ninth Congressional District race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready in 2018. Veteran campaign worker McRae Dowless was eventually convicted in that case. He allegedly paid workers $125 for every 50 absentee ballots they turned in from Bladen and Robeson counties. State and local officials were concerned the ballots could have been altered or tampered with before being taken to the boards of elections. Accusations of ballot tampering were made during the contested sheriff’s race in Columbus County in the same year.
State and national officials have warned of concerted efforts to manipulate harvested ballots across the country this fall, due to the volatile presidential race.
Additional efforts are underway to prevent fraudulent ballot harvesting in this fall’s elections. For more information, and to check your voter registration, call 640.6609.