Possible Leak of Voter Data Adds to Concerns in Disputed NC Election
The Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party said Tuesday that a New Election in the State’s Ninth Congressional District may be necessary after Reports that Early Voter Data was Improperly Leaked by the Elections Board in Bladen County, where State Officials are already Investigating possible Electoral Fraud. Democrats allege that Data was Leaked exclusively to Republicans, giving them an Advantage before Election Day.
The Statement by the Chairman, Robin Hayes, appeared to bring State Republicans one step Closer to Acknowledging that the November Election, which their Candidate, Mark Harris, had apparently won by 905 votes, may need to be Nullified and a New Election called. Later Tuesday, Republican Legislators proposed a Measure that would ensure any New Election also included a New Primary, potentially giving Republicans a chance to Replace Mr. Harris, a Nominee many Party Officials now fear is Tainted.
“The voters will have the opportunity to start over by selecting a new candidate if they so choose,” said State Representative David R. Lewis, the Chairman of the House’s Elections and Ethics Law Committee, at a News Conference in Raleigh.
The Measure, which Legislators are poised to consider this week, would widen the Effects of any Decision by the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to Order another round of Voting. The Board, which has Not Certified the Results of the Ninth District’s General Election, is Planning an Evidentiary Hearing that will Explore whether Absentee Ballots were Illegally handled or even Altered by a Voter Turnout Operative who worked on behalf of Mr. Harris’s Campaign in rural Bladen County.
But the possibility that Data was Leaked by County Officials has also Emerged as an Issue. In recent weeks, Democrats released an Affidavit by Agnes Willis, an Assistant who worked at the Local Elections Board, who said that on Nov. 3rd, the last day of Early Voting, the Tape showing Election Results “was run after the polls closed, and was viewed by officials” who were Not Election Judges.
A Lawyer for the Democrats later wrote to the State Board, saying that Democrats had learned that Bladen County Officials had Illegally Leaked Absentee Vote Totals to Republicans, but withheld it from Democrats. “We are extremely concerned that early voting totals may have been leaked in Bladen County as reported by The Charlotte Observer,” Mr. Hayes said in his Statement, referring to a Story that Appeared in that Paper on Monday. “This action by election officials would be a fundamental violation of the sense of fair play, honesty, and integrity that the Republican Party stands for. We can never tolerate the state putting its thumb on the scale. The people involved in this must be held accountable and should it be true, this fact alone would likely require a new election.” He added: “Accessing early vote totals before the overall results are final can clearly give an unfair advantage to one candidate over the other.”
The Voter Turnout Operative, L. McCrae Dowless, Jr., has a Criminal History that includes Felony Convictions for Fraud and Perjury, and has been Named as a “person of interest” in the State Board’s Investigation. At issue is whether he or his Employees Illegally Handled or Manipulated Absentee Ballots.
As concerns about the Election began to emerge late last month, State Republicans initially threatened to Sue unless Mr. Harris’s Victory was Certified immediately. But last Thursday, Dallas Woodhouse, the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said that Republicans “would not oppose a new election” if the State Board showed “a substantial likelihood that the race could have been altered.” Mr. Harris has Denied Wrongdoing, and a Spokesman did Not respond to a Message on Tuesday.
But any successful effort to require a New Primary could throw Mr. Harris’s Fortunes into Peril, perhaps Opening the way for a Political Resurrection by Representative Robert M. Pittenger, whom Mr. Harris narrowly Defeated in a Primary in May.
Mr. Lewis Depicted the Republican Proposal only as an Effort to provide Uniform Rules for New Congressional Elections. In the Event of a Representative’s Death or Resignation, he noted, a Primary would be Required. “This is kind of uncharted waters, so we felt like it would be in the best interest of public policy, the best interest of the people to make the rules consistent, so that’s what we’ve done,” Mr. Lewis said.
Jens Lutz, Vice-Chair of the Bladen County Board of Elections, says he will Not stay on in that Role, as State Investigators continue Probe of Allegations of Widespread Absentee Ballot Fraud. Lutz also Served in recent years as Chairman of the Bladen County Democratic Party and once tried, Unsuccessfully, to Expand Alcohol Sales in Bladenboro, a Dry Town where Stores cannot Sell Beer or Wine.
In a Letter this past week to Kim Strach, the Director of North Carolina's State Elections Board, Lutz said he was Leaving his Bladen County Post immediately. Multiple Media Outlets on Monday reported Lutz's Letter to Strach said Members of his Own Political Party are Attacking him and Critics are dragging Members of his Family "into the drama." "Sometimes in life circumstances reach the breaking point especially when (you're) trying to do the right thing," Lutz wrote. "I regret having to do this but things have gotten way out of hand."
Lutz Resigned as some Questioned his Past Business Ties to the Man now at the Center of State Investigators' Attention: McCrae Dowless. Dowless is a well-known Political Operative in Bladen County who worked with a Consultant Firm hired by Republican Mark Harris' Campaign during Harris' 2018 Run for Congress. But, before News Reporters flocked to Dowless' House and State Elections Investigators Descended on Bladen County, Lutz was sharing his Own Concerns. Two Posts on Lutz's Facebook page before the 2018 Midterm Elections show he was worried about Fraud.
Rumors swirled, according to Lutz's Post, of People going Door-to-Door in Bladen County to Pick Up Ballots, which Runs afoul of North Carolina Law, Only Family Members are Allowed to Deliver an Absentee Ballot on someone else's behalf. Some People, Lutz suggests, may have received Blank Ballots in the Mail even though they had Not Requested an Absentee Mail-in ballot.
Public Records show Lutz and Dowless were once in Business together. In 2014, they Incorporated Politico Management Services. The Company was a Political Consulting Firm. But, he refused to say who their Clients were, saying those Campaigns or Candidates could now be under Investigation.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
Trump Administration Hid Report Revealing Wells Fargo Charged High Fees to Students
The Trump Administration for Months Concealed a Report that Showed Wells Fargo Charged College Students Fees that were on Average several Times Higher than some of its Competitors.
It was produced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) office previously led by Seth Frotman, who Quit as the Bureau’s Top Student Loan Official in Protest of Trump Administration Policies. Frotman said in his Resignation Letter that CFPB Leaders had “suppressed the publication” of the report.
The previously unseen Analysis examined the Fees associated with Debit Cards and other Financial Products provided by 14 Companies through Agreements with more than 500 Colleges across the Country. Wells Fargo Provided roughly One-Quarter of those Accounts but the Bank collected more than Half of all Fees Paid by Students, according to the Report Data. The Bank’s Average Annual Fee per Account was nearly $50, the highest of any Provider.
The Report raises Questions about whether Campus Accounts with High Fees comply with Education Department Rules requiring Colleges to make sure the Products they help Promote are “not inconsistent with the best financial interests” of their Students.
The CFPB first Warned in December 2016 that some Financial Products offered on College Campuses may run Afoul of those Regulations. The latest Report is a more In-Depth Analysis of the Fees Charged to Students during the 2016-17 Academic year, the first year that Colleges were Required to make that Information Public. “Our analysis finds that most students at most colleges are able to use their college-sponsored account fee free,” the CFPB report says, but it Notes that “certain account fees and providers still pose risks to student consumers.”
The CFPB did Not include the Analysis as part of its Annual Public Report on Campus Financial Products completed last year. But it did Provide a Copy to the Head of the Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid in February, which means it's been available for at least 10 months. “The Bureau shared this information directly with the Department of Education," the Spokesperson, who declined to be named, said in a Statement. The Education Department did Not take any Action based on the Report, which it did not make Public, either.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA, 3rd District), who is poised to become Chairman of the House Education Committee, said Earlier this year that the Allegation that the CFPB had Concealed the Report on Fees Charged to Students Warranted an “immediate investigation” and Called for Congressional Hearings. The Report found that more than 1.3 Million Students using College-Sponsored Debit Cards or other Products Collectively Paid $27.6 Million in Fees during the 2016-17 School year.
The Largest Provider of Campus Accounts was BankMobile, which is Offered by Customers Bank and had Annual Average Fees of $12.12 per Account. PNC Bank, the Third-Largest Provider, Charged Average Annual Fees of $15.84.
Wells Fargo was the Second-Largest Provider with Average Annual Fees of $46.99 per Account. Jim Seitz, a Spokesperson for Wells Fargo, said the Bank does Not Charge Extra Fees for its Campus Product but noted that “customers use their accounts in different ways.” “For example, some campuses have higher concentrations of nontraditional or part-time students with more complex banking needs, such as sending wires or purchasing more checks,” he said in a Statement. “Others may have high international populations that send and receive money to/from overseas.” “Using the wide range of convenient tools and resources we offer can help customers to manage their account activity more effectively, and when possible, avoid incurring added costs,” he added.
The CFPB Report also Questioned the Agreements under which Financial Services Providers Pay Colleges to Promote their Products on Campus. It found that Students ended up Paying Three Times more in Average Fees when their Bank or Account Provider had paid the College.
Those Arrangements, the Report says, “raise questions about potential conflicts of interest, including whether revenue sharing encourages higher-fee financial products that crowd out competition from providers of accounts for which student accountholders would avoid high fees and/or accounts where all student accountholders overall would pay less in fees.”
Allied Progress, a Liberal Advocacy group that has been sharply Critical of the Trump Administration’s Management of the CFPB, was among several groups that had been pushing the Consumer Bureau to Release the Report. "This report shows Wells Fargo and other big banks that provide college-sponsored deposit and prepaid accounts are burying students with crippling fees and the Department of Education is doing nothing about it,” Karl Frisch, the Group’s Executive Director, said in a Statement. “No wonder Mulvaney's CFPB tried to make sure it would never see the light of day. The actions by these banks and CFPB officials that sought to cover it up must be investigated by Congress.”
Mick Mulvaney, OMB Director, has been the Acting Director of the Bureau. The Senate last week Confirmed Kathy Kraninger as the New Director. In a Statement, Consumer Bankers Association President and CEO Richard Hunt said that "the more services – wire transfers, overdraft protections and the like – used by a customer of any age will result in increased annual costs. Each product and service carries a nominal fee – as the report notes – and is optional.”
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
Thousands of Mailed Ballots in FL Were Not Counted
Over a Month after Election Day, the drama in Florida still hasn’t Completely Subsided.
Florida Officials say Thousands of Mailed Ballots were Not Counted because they were Delivered too Late to State Election Offices.
The Department of State last week informed a Federal Judge that 6,670 Ballots were Mailed ahead of the Nov. 6th Election but were Not Counted because they were Not Received by Election Day.
The Tally prepared by State Officials includes Totals from 65 of Florida’s 67 Counties.
Three Statewide Florida Races, including the Contest for Governor, went to Recounts because the Margins were So Close.
Under Florida Law, Ballots Mailed inside the United States must reach Election Offices by 7pm on Election Day.
Overseas Ballots are Counted if they are Received up to 10 days after the Election.
A Veterans Group and Democrats Challenged the Law in Federal Court.How to Track Your Florida Vote-by-Mail Ballot Request and Returned Ballot
Any Voter who has Requested a Vote-by-Mail Ballot can Track Online the Status of their Ballot through a Link within the Division of Elections' Voter Information Lookup
or through their County Supervisor of Elections' website
If the Voter decides to go to the Polls to Vote instead, the Voter will still be able to Vote a Regular Ballot if the Supervisor of Elections' Office is able to Confirm that it has Not Received the Voter's Vote-by-Mail Ballot.
However, if it is Confirmed that the Voter have already Voted a Vote-by-Mail Ballot, the Voter Cannot Vote Again at the Polls.
If the Voter believes or insists that the Supervisor of Elections' Office is Wrong about Receiving the Vote-by-Mail Ballot or if the Supervisor of Elections' Office cannot Confirm that the Voter has already Voted an Vote-by-Mail Ballot, the Voter is allowed to Vote a Provisional Ballot.
Other Florida News, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that he will Serve Out his Full Second Term under an Arrangement that will lead to a Five-Day Delay in the Republican joining the U.S. Senate next month.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
LinkedIn Co-Founder Backs Voter Data Project is Threat to Democratic Party
Silicon Valley Billionaire, Reid Hoffman, has teamed up with several former Obama Administration Officials to create an Independent, and likely For-Profit, Database that would Store All of the Progressive Community’s Voter Data. The Project's Backers intend to spend $35 Million in the first year alone, with Hoffman, a Co-Founder of LinkedIn, as the Primary Investor.
“As we build this effort, we will be reaching out to all the key players soon to get this done,“ a Person familiar with the on-going Discussions said, stressing that the Project is still in its early stages. “Across the board, everyone involved agrees that the Republicans have a tremendous advantage when it comes to data infrastructure going into 2020, and that there needs to be a real shift in our thinking and action in order to set candidates up to be successful for people around the country.”
Hoffman’s Venture complicates Plans for a separate Data Trust Project being Pushed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That effort is facing Resistance from the Democratic State Parties, which currently have Prime Ownership Rights to the Party’s Voter File and are hesitant about Licensing it to an Outside Entity.
The DNC’s Top Leaders have been telling People that Hoffman’s Project represents an “existential threat" to the Party. With Tens of Millions of Dollars at their Disposal, the People behind Hoffman-backed Project could eventually create their own Voter File, making the Democratic Party’s File less Valuable. That Process, however, would likely take several years and would be nearly impossible to Complete by the 2020 Election. As a result, DNC Officials say the Committee is Open to Collaborating with Hoffman, or perhaps joining Forces with him.
"The DNC believes the creation of a data trust is imperative to winning in 2020 and beyond, and we are open to participating alongside a variety of partners in a data trust that protects the interests of our party and ensures state parties have what they need to win," Mary Beth Cahill, a Senior Advisor to the DNC, said in a Statement.
The Data Trust Structure allows for raising Money from the Private Sector free from Campaign Finance Limits. It would also Facilitate Pooling together Data from Outside Groups and Campaigns in Real Time, which is normally not allowed. The Republican Party currently has that Structure and many Top Democrats believe it offers a Huge Advantage.
State Parties agree that some Entity allowing for Data Integration should be Created and are Working on several Counter-Proposals to present in the coming weeks. They are wary of giving up Some Control of their Voter File to an Outside Entity. There is also Fear that Hoffman and the “move fast and break things” Ethos of Silicon Valley would ultimately bring about the End of the State Parties as currently constituted.
“Both of [the data trust projects] will eliminate state parties, not immediately but eventually,” said One State Party Official.
State Parties will still be subject to Campaign Finance Limits while Outside Groups without those Limits would have Access to their Voter File Data, putting them at a Disadvantage that could grow with time, the thinking goes.
Some State Parties are also Skeptical of the New Project’s Leadership, which has plenty of Government and Technology Experience but little Campaign know-how. Todd Park, the Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer to Barack Obama, would Serve as Chair, and Veterans of the U.S. Digital Service, Haley Van Dyck and Mickey Dickerson, as CEO and CTO, respectively.
The Next Decision Point will likely come on December 18th at a previously Scheduled Meeting with Top DNC Officials, State Parties, and other Interested Parties.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
Amending Primary Election Code in PA is Long Overdue
Pennsylvania is One of Nine States conducting Closed Primary Elections. While that Format can Strengthen Party Affiliation, it also lets the Two Major Parties Dominate the Political Spectrum and Debate.
Independent or Unaffiliated Voters do Not have Representation during the Primary. For the Keystone State, that number approximates 740,000 Pennsylvanians.
State Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25th District, Brockway), has introduced Legislation (SB 1234
), to Change the Pennsylvania Election Code to a Semi-Closed Primary.
A Semi-Closed Primary means Unaffiliated Voters, Independents, can Vote in a State’s Two Major Party Primary. Unaffiliated Registered Voters do Not have to declare Formal Affiliation with a Political Party in Order to Vote in the Primary Election.
The Process is straightforward: On Election Day, a Poll Worker asks which Major Party Ballot the Registered Unaffiliated Voter is choosing. For that Primary Only, the Unaffiliated Voter is Identified as being a Member of the Party Associated with the chosen Ballot.
Voters are Not held to that Choice in subsequent Elections nor Identified in Voter Registration Rosters as such.
If Passed, Pennsylvania would join 16 other States conducting Semi-Closed Primary Elections: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.
SB 1234 does Not Amend, however, that Registered Voters who List a Party affiliation on Primary Election Day can Switch at the Polling Place and ask for an Opposing Party’s Ballot, thus, SB 1234’s true Goal is to Grant Primary Election Voting Privileges to Unaffiliated Voters and Strengthen Voter Turnout.
In a true Open Primary, Voters would get One Ballot with All the Candidates and may Choose any Candidate, Cross-over Voting is Permitted.
In Pennsylvania, Voter Turnout for their last Primary was 18%.
Opponents say SB 1234’s Language does not go far enough, that it still favors only the Two Major Parties: Republican and Democrat.
Therefore, Voter Choice should not be Restricted to the Two-Party system; they want any Voter to be able to choose to vote Green, Libertarian, Constitution, Natural Law, or other Party, the option to do so would have to be included in any Amendment to P.L. 1330 No. 320.
Opponents further complain of Ballot Sway: Unaffiliated Voters can make a concerted effort in supporting a Primary Candidate they View who would be Weak in the General Election against a Candidate on an Opposing Ticket.
Predicting Accurately which Candidate will Draw Votes and who will Not early on in a Campaign requires more than Surveys of likely Voters. And if Voters vote by Candidate rather than Party, perhaps we can Return to Civility.
Given the Keystone State’s Role in our Nation’s History, one would think this State would Lead the effort to Support Independence at the Ballot box.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker