Saturday News: Fraud, by any other name


DOWLESS CREW HANDLED 1 IN 5 ABSENTEE BALLOTS: One out of every five absentee ballots counted in Bladen County in 2018 were handled by people linked to the Republican political operative at the center of an investigation that has stalled the results of a North Carolina congressional election. That’s according to an analysis by WRAL News, which this month closely examined more than 1,500 signed envelopes from accepted absentee ballots made public by the State Board of Elections in its probe of voting irregularities in the 9th Congressional District. The agency’s investigation has largely focused over the last few months on two southeastern North Carolina counties – Bladen and Robeson – both the subject of scrutiny in previous elections.

DAN MCCREADY CALLS FOR NEW ELECTION OVER TAINTED BALLOTS: Ballot harvesting by a Bladen County political operative “tainted” more ballots than the current margin in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, Democrat Dan McCready’s attorneys allege in documents filed to the state board of elections. McCready trails Republican Mark Harris by 905 votes in unofficial results from the November election in the 9th district. The McCready campaign argues that the number of ballots affected by Leslie McCrae Dowless — a Bladen County political operative and elected official who was hired at Harris’ direction to conduct get-out-the-vote work — could be as high as 2,500, citing the 1,364 absentee-by-mail ballots cast in Bladen and Robeson and the 1,169 absentee-by-mail ballots sent to voters that were not returned and who did not vote in another way.

GOP GIVES UP DEFENDING WAKE DISTRICTS IT UNNECESSARILY REDREW: A key North Carolina GOP lawmaker says Republicans won't appeal a ruling by state judges that the General Assembly violated a constitutional prohibition against mid-decade redistricting because it unnecessarily changed four House districts in 2017. Rep. David Lewis was a defendant in a lawsuit challenging alterations to those Wake County district boundaries. Lewis said Friday he strongly disagrees with the November ruling but describes its scope as relatively narrow. He said new House districts for Wake will be produced by June 30. The state NAACP, League of Women Voters and others who sued argued the four districts had to return to how they were drawn in 2011. Lawmakers redrew dozens of House and Senate districts in 2017 when federal judges determined nearly 30 of them were tainted by racial bias.

LEGAL CHALLENGES TO TRUMP'S EMERGENCY DECLARATION ALREADY LINING UP: The coming legal fight seems likely to hinge on two main issues: Can the president declare a national emergency to build a border wall in the face of Congress' refusal to give him all the money he wanted and, under the federal law Trump invoked in his declaration, can the Defense Department take money from some congressionally approved military construction projects to pay for wall construction? The Pentagon has so far not said which projects might be affected. But after weeks of publicly ruminating whether to act, Trump's signature on the declaration set in motion a quick march to the courthouse. Trump relied on the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which Congress adopted as a way to put some limits on presidential use of national emergencies. The act requires a president to notify Congress publicly of the national emergency and to report every six months. The law also says the president must renew the emergency every year, simply by notifying Congress. The House and Senate also can revoke a declaration by majority vote, though it would take a two-thirds vote by each house to override an expected presidential veto.

NAZI-LIKE NATIONALISM GROWS IN SPAIN, SPURRED BY ANTI-IMMIGRANT FERVOR: But the most important seed growing here along Spain’s southern coast may be that of Vox, Spain’s first far-right party since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. With Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s decision on Friday to call for new elections, Vox, which got its election breakthrough in El Ejido, will now have a chance to test its appeal on a national stage. Its entry will break a taboo for Spain, which until now has resisted the pull of far-right nationalism alive in much of Europe. In regional elections last December in Andalusia, where Almería is located, Vox won 11 percent of the vote. In El Ejido, a local municipality of about 90,000, it came out on top with almost 30 percent. What animates Vox, its supporters say, is an urge to reclaim and defend Spanish nationalism in the face of perceived threats to the country’s integrity.