Lessons From Vote Tampering Scandal Could Strengthen Absentee Balloting Integrity

Mar 13, 2019

Kim Strach, the executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, listens during the public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District investigation Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh, N.C.
Credit Juli Leonard / The News & Observer via AP, Pool

As the state gears up for a new race in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, elections officials are pitching measures to make absentee voting in the state more trustworthy.

Last month, the state elections board called for a new contest after investigators found that a campaign operative working for Republican Mark Harris paid workers to illegally collect absentee ballots in Bladen County; a practice known as harvesting. State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach told lawmakers Wednesday that pre-paid postage on ballots could help prevent the kind of harvesting seen in the last election.

"Another thing that we've seen, especially in Bladen County, that was some of the reason why people gave their ballots to collectors is because that's an expense that they didn't want to incur," Strach told members of the House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law.

Strach also proposed making the punishment for elections-related crimes harsher, noting that except for illegal possession of absentee ballots, many unlawful elections-related activities are classified as misdemeanors.

Strach also told state lawmakers that county records showing who dropped off absentee ballot request forms were key to the investigation of voting improprieties in the 9th congressional district. She said such records should be required by law.

"It would be good to make sure all 100 counties are tracking this information and also tracking when someone brings in a completed absentee ballot to ensure that that person is the voter or the near relative of the voter," Strach said.

Candidate filing for the Ninth District do-over race is currently open. Candidates have until this Friday, March 15 to submit their candidacy.