Thursday News: Another non-solution


REPUBLICAN ANSWER TO ABSENTEE BALLOT CRISIS: MORE VOTER IDS: Embarrassed by the election fraud investigation making national news, the state House added to its voter ID bill a goal for people who request absentee ballots to include some form of identification. “This situation we’re all reading about is an embarrassment and an impediment to the integrity of our entire election system,” said Rep. David Lewis, the Harnett County Republican shepherding the voter ID bill through the House. The State Board of Elections would be responsible for writing the rule for absentee ballot IDs under the provision added to the bill Wednesday. An investigation into election fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties that centered on absentee mail-in ballots has delayed the certification of Republican Mark Harris’ election in the 9th Congressional District. House Republicans, as recently as this summer, had rejected proposals to require IDs from people who vote by mail.

CONGRESS MAY HOLD HEARINGS ON ABSENTEE BALLOT FRAUD IN NC09: A Democrat on a key U.S. House committee called Wednesday for a congressional hearing on North Carolina's disputed 9th Congressional District election results. Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly said an emergency hearing should be held this session, with Republicans still in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Connolly is one of the senior Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "Votes have been stolen by preying on senior and minority voters, and now a cloud of doubt and suspicion hangs over this election result," Connolly said in a statement." "It is incumbent on Chairman (Trey) Gowdy to hold an emergency hearing before the end of this congressional session so that we can shed light and understand what happened in this race.” It's unclear whether votes have been stolen. But what is clear is that there was at least one ballot harvesting operation in the 9th District, which went door to door taking mail-in absentee ballots from voters in Bladen County, and possibly in other counties as well.

BLADEN COUNTY IN SPOTLIGHT AFTER 8 YEARS OF MAIL-IN VOTING IRREGULARITIES: “Bladen County has a troubled history of political groups exploiting the use of absentee ballots in an effort to skew support for a specific candidate or group of candidates,” wrote Jon David, district attorney for Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties, in a Jan. 26, 2018 letter to the State Bureau of Investigation’s interim assistant director. “These groups package the anticipated ability to garner absentee ballots as a commodity to be brokered.” Bladen County is at the center of an investigation into possible election fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, which has yet to be certified by North Carolina’s nine-member State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. A 2010 case, investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation and referred to the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Unit, was closed in 2013 without any criminal charges being filed, David told The News & Observer in an email.

NEW MECK SHERIFF UPHOLDS PROMISE TO CANCEL 287(G) PROGRAM WITH ICE: News outlets report that on his first day at work, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said in a news release Wednesday that deputies will stop performing immigration duties when the agreement ends. The program allowed sheriff's deputies to perform immigration enforcement duties inside the jail with supervision from ICE. McFadden also said ICE officials will need court-issued warrants or detainers to access the jail while he's sheriff. An ICE spokesman confirmed McFadden's decision. The 287(g) program has sent thousands of people into deportation proceedings since 2006. Ending it was a major part of McFadden's election campaign. Former sheriff Irwin Carmichael defended his office's participation in the program. McFadden defeated Carmichael in May's Democratic primary.

PRISONER EXCHANGE MARKS BEGINNINGS OF YEMEN PEACE TALKS: Yemen’s warring sides agreed on Thursday to exchange prisoners, starting peace consultations in Sweden that aim to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and pushed millions to the brink of famine. The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, opened the talks, saying they represented a “critical opportunity” for Yemen. The prisoner exchange, said to involve at least 5,000 detainees, is the first of several confidence-building measures intended to draw the Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition that supports President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi into more substantive negotiations. Also on the table is a proposal to reopen the airport in the capital, Sana, which has been under a Saudi blockade since 2015 — one of several punishing measures that have fueled what the United Nations calls the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.