A thoughtful, measured piece from a reliable cog in the Leftist Media Complex? That’s what we have here, and it’s a great read.
From Michael Graff at Politico:
In the back office of the only liquor store within 30 miles of this low-lying town in eastern North Carolina, behind a window where he can see out better than customers can see in, Mark Gillespie was paying bills. “They never stop,” the manager of the ABC Store said. He looked up occasionally to see who was coming in: friends and family, coaches from the Dixie Youth Baseball league program he runs, parents of the Boy Scout troop he oversees.
They’re the reason, he said, he had to be careful with his words when I asked about his county’s new status as the epicenter of election fraud in the United States.
“I’m just mad about the whole thing,” the former county commissioner told me. “It really is embarrassing for my county, my little tiny county, to be on national news. Where I grew up at and call home.”
In the two weeks since Thanksgiving, Bladen County has been the focus of investigations into irregularities in the race to represent North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Specifically, how did the Republican, Mark Harris, win 61 percent of the absentee-by-mail votes when Republican voters requested only 19 percent of all absentee ballots? How did he manage to win the county at all, given the fact that it has three times as many registered Democrats as Republicans?
The numbers are close enough to jeopardize Harris’ apparent 905-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready and might even force a redo of the election. That a small-scale fraud in a rural county of only 35,000 people could have fudged the result of one of the most watched congressional races in the country is a reminder once again of the outside influence of economically-left-behind places like Bladen County, where the poverty rate is 20 percent and the median household income of $32,396 is about half the national median.
Local and national news outlets have done a fairly convincing job assigning blame for this fraud to a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless. A lifelong county resident, Dowless took money from an organization that took money from Harris’ campaign and, in turn, handed that money out to anyone willing to go door-to-door and persuade people to request and then hand over absentee ballots. A few of the foot soldiers have confirmed their parts, and several voters signed affidavits saying someone took their unsealed and incomplete ballots, which is illegal.
But over the course of two days and a couple of dozen interviews, everyone I talked to in Bladen County said it would be shortsighted to assign all blame to Dowless.
“They pick these people who’ve self-destructed their life, then they’re guinea pigs for whatever comes along to make a dollar,” said Sarah Jane Benson, whose family owns a restaurant in Bladenboro. “If it hadn’t been McCrae, it’d been somebody else. They’d have found somebody else to do it.”
Out-of-town commentators have had fun with clips of people standing outside mobile homes in their socks, speaking in heavy Southern accents, but the sad truth is that regardless of how high up the fraud goes, the ground game is a portrait of poverty in America—people who need $100 for reasons that range from Christmas presents to opioid addictions going to the homes of poor and elderly neighbors who trust their ballots in the hands of strangers.
I didn’t come to look for election fraud; that’s more or less an accepted fact now. I came to understand what makes a county like this susceptible. [… ]”