ELECTION BOARD INVESTIGATOR SEIZES ABSENTEE BALLOT MATERIALS IN BLADEN: A State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement investigator seized absentee ballot envelopes and request forms from the Nov. 6 election in Bladen County, the board confirmed Wednesday. Spokesman Patrick Gannon also confirmed that the board is investigating "potential irregularities involving absentee ballots in the 9th Congressional District." The board refused Tuesday to certify results in that race. Board members were tight-lipped after their unanimous decision, but problems were suggested in the district's southeastern corner, and the board's closed-session discussions pointed toward an open investigation. Gannon confirmed the investigation Wednesday after Bladen County Board of Elections Chairman Bobby Ludlum told reporters that the state board's chief investigator seized absentee ballot envelopes from the election.
WAKE GOP CHAIR HELLWIG FILES COMPLAINT AGAINST SBOE CHAIRMAN OVER TWEETS: The complaint, sent to Gov. Roy Cooper and State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement Executive Director Kim Strach, asks for the state board to remove Penry and replace him with “a fair-minded individual who will act in the public interest and not show favoritism towards any party or clique.” Penry, a Democrat, was appointed to the board by Cooper earlier this year. The complaint comes as the North Carolina General Assembly prepares to reshape the board after a three-judge panel found the board’s current makeup unconstitutional. The complaint, filed by Charles Hellwig, include 17 pages of examples of tweets Penry has sent since becoming the chairman of the NCSBE, including one saying President Donald Trump needs a “diaper change.” Another tweet calls the recently passed constitutional amendment to preserve the right to hunt and fish the “hunt n’ feesh” amendment.
LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATS WANT LONGER ROLLING-OUT PERIOD FOR VOTER ID: The Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to legislation setting the rules for the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Other Democrats repeatedly called for slowing down the process, noting dozens of changes have already been made to the draft legislation that was first rolled out a week ago and suggesting people will be wrongly blocked from voting if IDs are required starting next year. "A rollout period of five months is just too short," said Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, noting some municipal primaries will be held in the spring. "Sometimes we don't do a real good job as a state implementing big systems." But Senate Republicans voted down or pushed aside several Democratic-sponsored amendments, saying North Carolina voters spoke three weeks ago in calling for voter ID to be part of future elections.
NANCY PELOSI NOMINATED TO REGAIN HER TITLE AS SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: In a letter to colleagues ahead of voting, Pelosi gave a nod to those clamoring for change. “We all agree that history is in a hurry, and we need to accelerate the pace of change in Congress,” she wrote, noting the “historic” class of new first-term lawmakers, the largest since Watergate, who led Democrats to the majority in the midterm election. “My responsibility is to recognize the myriad of talent and tools at our disposal to take us in to the future by showcasing the idealism, intellect and imagination of our caucus,” she wrote. Pelosi’s opponents had pledged to usher in a new era for Democrats. But one by one, the powerful California congresswoman picked off the would-be challengers and smoothed skeptics. In the end, there was no one willing, or able, to mount a serious campaign against her bid to reclaim the speaker’s job, which she held from 2007 to 2011, before the GOP took back the majority.
TRUMP HINTS AT MANAFORT PARDON WHILE DREDGING UP MCCARTHYISM: By leaving open the possibility of pardoning a former aide whose lawyer was a source of inside information about an investigation into Mr. Trump himself, the president showed a new willingness to publicly signal that he will intervene to protect people who are in the special counsel’s cross hairs. Despite prosecutors’ declaration that Mr. Manafort had lied to them, Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. Manafort had instead refused to make false statements that would advance the special counsel’s investigation. He said Jerome Corsi, a conservative author, had also been pressured to lie and defended Roger Stone Jr., a former Trump campaign adviser and longtime friend of the president’s whom the special counsel is investigating. “It’s actually very brave,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m telling you this is McCarthyism. We are in the McCarthy era. This is no better than McCarthy.”