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Election Investigation: Edge requests certification of Commissioners Race; hearing postponed

By Erin Smith

A candidate for the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 race has submitted a letter to the NC State Board of Elections requesting the race be certified. The former NC State Board of Elections and Ethics refused to certify the US Congress District 9 and ordered the Bladen County Board of Elections to not issue certificates of election in the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 race and the Bladen County Soil and Water District race.

In a letter made available by the NC State Board of Elections on Tuesday, Wayne Edge, who was the Republican candidate for the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 seat, wrote, “I have reviewed the documents made available by the State Board of Elections and in my opinion it is unlikely the State Boards findings will affect the outcome of the results in the Bladen County Commissioners District 3 election race. However, I do support the ongoing investigation into “Bladen County” politics.”

Patrick Gannon, a spokesman with the NC State Board of Elections said Edge’s letter does not change things.

“The former Board, before it was dissolved, voted to withhold certification. Until there is a board to certify that race, it cannot be certified. We are continuing to investigate significant absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County involving the 2018 election,” said Gannon.

The seat is currently held by incumbent Democrat Russell Priest. In his evidentiary submission to the State Board of Elections, Priest states that all the documents available demonstrates that McCrae Dowless and his operatives were involved with the Mark Harris campaign.

Priest’s statement also points out that Dowless’ efforts did not support Edge’s campaign as Priest won re-election by 234 votes. Priest’s statement also points out that by disallowing 153 votes, the outcome of the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 race will not change.

Priest wrote, “I have never hired McCrae Dowless to assist with my campaign. I learned of the existence of the Red Dome Group as a result of the State Board of Elections publicized election fraud investigation. I did not hire the Red Dome Group to assist with my campaign.”

Adding to the frustration of the candidates and their supporters, there currently is no sitting State Board of Elections, the NC State Board of Elections and Ethics panel was dissolved by a court order on December 28, 2018, by a three judge panel.

A new law adopted by the NC General Assembly sets January 31, 2019, as the earliest date possible a new board can be seated. The new law also calls for the new state board to consist of five members appointed by the Governor. The local boards of election will also reflect five members with four members appointed by the State Board of Elections and one member appointed by the Governor.

The evidentiary hearing that was scheduled for January 11, 2019, has been postponed. Gannon said once the new Board of Elections is seated, they will then set a new date for the hearing.

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