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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

Election Fraud Isn’t Voter Fraud. Guess Which One We Should Be Worried About Now?


Magicians base most of their tricks on misdirection. They get you to stare at one closed fist while the other hand slips the vanished coin into the magician’s pocket. A good trick depends on the audience looking at the wrong thing.

The magicians in the North Carolina legislature have gotten us to pay a whole lot of attention to voter fraud. But it turns out we should’ve been spending our time paying attention to election fraud.

It sure looks like election fraud of some kind went on in the U.S. House race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. A bunch of in-depth reporting, including some from WFAE’s Steve Harrison, has shown that a lot of shady things happened in Bladen and Robeson counties when it came to absentee ballots.

Several absentee voters said people showed up out of the blue to collect their ballots. That’s illegal. Some people who collected the ballots say they were paid to do so. That’s also illegal. And it turns out that a lot of requested absentee ballots never got turned in. If somebody went around picking up ballots and just threw out the ones they didn’t like, that is most definitely illegal.

Whatever happened, it might have made the difference in an extremely close race. The absentee ballots in Bladen favored Harris by a bigger percentage than they did in any other county in the district. There are thousands of ballots unaccounted for. And Harris won by just 905 votes.

There are many mysteries still to be solved. Most of them center on a guy named Leslie Dowless, who was working for a Cornelius company called Red Dome Group on Harris’ behalf. Dowless has been involved in absentee-ballot controversies with both parties in the past. It’s still not clear exactly what he did, and how much Harris knew about it.

But at least two things do seem clear.

One is that there ought to be a new election in the 9th district. The irregularities meet the threshold for a revote in the general election. They might even merit another look at the Republican primary, where Harris beat the incumbent, Robert Pittenger, by just 828 votes.

The second thing that’s clear is how the North Carolina legislature’s pursuit of a state voter ID law has been a whole lot of effort spent on the wrong thing.

The legislature put a voter ID referendum on the election ballot back in November, and voters passed it. Voter ID laws tend to make it harder for poor and minority voters to participate. But the laws also neglect the fact that actual voter fraud is about as rare as a two-headed frog. With every election comes rumors of people voting in more than one district, or long-dead voters who never disappeared from the voting rolls somehow casting ballots. What those stories tend to lack is evidence that something actually happened.

In House District 9, the evidence is stacking up. And what the evidence points to is not voter fraud – it’s election fraud. Nothing in an ID requirement for in-person voting would prevent any of the shenanigans that appear to have gone down in the 9th District. There might be a threat to free and fair elections in our state. But right now, it sounds like the calls are coming from inside the house.

On My Mind with Tommy Tomlinson appears every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. On My Mind represents Tommy's opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to his column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.