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Looking Back on North Carolina's 9th District Voting Scandal — And Why It Resonates Nationwide

profile of the Bladen County Improvement Association and of the place, Bladen County.
Jeremy M. Lange/The New York Times
A Bladen County water tower sits along the highway outside Clarkton.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

While the 2020 presidential election was free, fair and secure, former President Trump continues to falsely claim that the election was stolen.

But long before the presidential race, the specter of voter fraud loomed large over the United States, in part because of a rural county in southeast North Carolina.

In 2018, a voting fraud scandal in Bladen County caught national attention. In the 9th District congressional race, Republican Mark Harris’ win was ultimately voided because an operative for his campaign allegedly tampered with absentee ballots.

It may be the only time in the last 80 years in which a congressional race has been voided due to fraud.

The Improvement Association” is a new audio series from the makers of the acclaimed “Serial” podcast. It looks back at the now infamous scandal from North Carolina’s 2018 9th District congressional race and why some locals allege the “election cheaters” are still at work.

We sit down with the project’s lead reporter and a local historian.


Zoe Chace, producer for "This American Life" and reporter for Serial Productions’ latest podcast, “The Improvement Association

Michael Bitzer, chair of political science and professor of politics and history at Catawba College

Jesse Steinmetz is Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.