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Fact Check: Cooper's State Of The State And Who Saw Early Vote Totals In Bladen County

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper talked up expanding Medicaid, curbing workplace discrimination and his efforts to improve education and job training in his second State of the State speech this week. Listening to all that and doing some quick fact-checking was The News & Observer’s Paul Specht.

He talked with Morning Edition’s Lisa Worf as part of WFAE’s weekly fact check of North Carolina politics.

Lisa Worf: Last week, you fact-checked a claim Cooper made about the number of uninsured veterans in North Carolina – that had to do with his push to expand Medicaid. This week, we have another number regarding Medicaid expansion that Cooper mentioned last night:

“Our communities could use an extra 30-40 thousand good paying jobs,” Cooper said. “Are we willing to help them?”

Worf: I’ve heard this number a few times from Democrats. Is it true expanding Medicaid would likely create those jobs?

Paul Specht: Yes, we rated that mostly true based on the information that's available. Obviously, it's difficult to predict the future, but Cooper is repeating something that House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said — that expanding Medicaid would create 40,000 jobs. That mostly falls in line with most of the research out there and what most experts agree would happen if it is expanded. Obviously, it could fluctuate a bit depending on what conditions they put on Medicaid expansion and who qualifies and things like that. But based on what we know, he's on the money there.

[Related Content: Fact Check: The Number Of Uninsured Veterans; Republicans Supporting Nonpartisan Redistricting]

Worf: And what kind of jobs are we talking about? Are these jobs in the health industry and jobs outside of the health industry, too?

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Credit Photo courtesy of Paul Specht
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Specht: That's what they expect. It's a sort of a trickle down thing. But to my knowledge, it's mostly health care jobs.

Worf: Cooper also said rural hospitals are bordering on bankruptcy and even closing because many of their patients don't have health insurance. Where does that rank on the truth-o-meter?

Specht: We have not fact checked that specifically, so it doesn't have a rating. But this was a little bit of an oversimplification. There are a lot of reasons that hospitals close, so it would be unfair to say that they're shutting down simply because people don't have insurance.

But he's right that rural hospitals are shutting down and they do just lack the operating revenues they need to keep going. And that's typically due to just a number of factors. You know sometimes it's insurance and sometimes it's, you know, doctors just not taking Medicaid and things like that. But he's at least right on that point that rural hospitals are struggling.

Worf: How many are we talking about shutting down?

Specht: Six rural hospitals have closed since 2013. So that's three in the last two years and there's no telling just how many others are on the brink.

Worf: Shifting gears now — you listen into last week's hearing on the 9th Congressional District and one of the things that came out to cast doubt on Bladen County’s election process was the telling of early voting results there before election day. North Carolina’s Democratic Party sent out emails with one headline, “Key Witness Confirms Early Vote Totals Shared with Mark Harris.” Now, there's no dispute that the votes were — against state law — tallied early, but where they leaked or shared with people outside of election staff?

Specht: I'm glad you brought that up because that's one thing that people will turn to now that there's a new election that the board has ordered.

I will turn our attention to the State Board of Elections investigators who said they were unable to confirm that those early voting results leaked outside of the Bladen County elections building. Like you said, they were printed early. The early voting tape isn't supposed to be printed until Election Day. But it was printed on the Saturday before Election Day right after early voting ended.

Now, there were two or three different people who took the stand in this case who said that they did see the early vote tally. They saw some names that were on it — you know, not only was it the congressional race in question, but also the sheriff's race. But we're not sure how far out those results got.

There a lot of questions that haven't been answered. For instance, McCrae Dowless — the man at the center of this election fraud hearing — his ex-wife testified that she overheard her ex-husband tell Mark Harris that he was leading in absentee votes. And so, that’s sort of circumstantial evidence that, in most court settings, might be referred to as hearsay.

And another case of that would be when North Carolina investigators said they found a text between Beth Harris — Mark Harris' wife — and their son John Harris. [Investigators say] that she relayed early voting results from the primary and said that McCrae Dowless had given her those results. Again, you know that's one text, but it's circumstantial evidence. They don't have hard evidence that the election results got outside of the Bladen County Elections building.

And that's one question I think that's on all of our minds as we wait to see who is going to administer the next special election between Dan McCready and whoever his opponent is. You know, will the state step in and decide to run things in Bladen County? We don't know. 

Paul Specht will be joining WFAE’s Morning Edition every Wednesday to Fact Check North Carolina news. If you have any claims you want the PolitiFact team to check out, you can email them at factcheck@newsobserver.com.