Democrat Rachel Hunt was sworn in as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly Wednesday, a day after a conservative group questioned 300 absentee mail votes she received in her race last year against Republican Bill Brawley.
The North Carolina Values Coalition said Tuesday the state board of elections had “committed malfeasance” when it told county elections boards last year to consider allowing absentee mail votes in which the dates on the signatures from witnesses differed from the date on the signature of the voter.
The coalition said it found at least 300 “improperly marked” ballots in the N.C. House 103 race, where Hunt defeated Brawley by 68 votes. She won the absentee mail vote by a large margin, 1,334 to 854.
“They have been combing through our absentee ballots," Mecklenburg elections director Michael Dickerson said. "And obviously we have a close race, so this was a good one to pick. And they have gone through and looked at them. And have found some that they question.”
He said the State Board of Elections had sent county boards a memo in April, saying to consider counting mail votes even if the dates on the signatures were different. The state had said it was possible that the mismatch dates could be the result of error. The state also said that requiring the dates on the witness signatures was only done this year as a starting point for an investigation.
The Values Coalition called on the Republican-controlled state House to not seat Hunt, pending an investigation – just as the Democratic-controlled U.S. House has said it will do with Republican Mark Harris, whose campaign is being investigated for possible absentee mail vote fraud.
But on Wednesday, Hunt was sworn in, along with all other legislators.
Patrick Gannon, a spokesperson for the state elections board, told media Tuesday that the allegations “missed the mark” in terms of being a credible allegation of misconduct.
On Wednesday, Gannon said state investigators have opened a case and are reviewing the complaint from the Values Coalition.