Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Wild Life in Bladen County -- Soon To Be a Book, Or a Major Motion Picture?

More things that stagger the mind and begger the imagination in Bladen County (thanks to the reporting of Joe Bruno):

Jens Lutz.
1. Jens Lutz, the vice chair of the Bladen County Board of Elections, suddenly resigned yesterday, holding a pat of butter in his mouth that refused to melt. He said his resignation had nothing whatsoever to do with the absentee ballot fraud investigation. Then wrote in his resignation letter to Kim Strach at the state Board of Elections (SBOE) that it was the investigation, because his family was taking it hard and Democrats were yelling at him about "compromise." (There's the first narrative hole: What compromise?)

SIDE NOTE: The Bladen Director of Elections, Cynthia Shaw, had already packed up her office and left like smoke a week ago, opting to take extended sick leave until her retirement in January.)

2. In 2014 Jens Lutz formed a political consulting LLC ("Politico Management Services") with chief fraud suspect McCrae Dowless. Both were registered Democrats at the time. (Lutz had served a term as chair of the Bladen Co. Democrats.) He admitted that some of Politico Management Services' clients may be subjects of the on-going investigation, so he wouldn't name them.

3. Lutz told Joe Bruno of WSOC that he began to get suspicious about Dowless: “No one knew how he operated,” Lutz said. “He was a very secretive person. Nobody knew what he did. They knew he was productive .... I do everything by the book. Once I see something is not 100 percent, I would rather not be a part of it. There were several people aware of what I was doing and at the time McCrae was a Democrat, I was a Democrat." ("Aware of what I was doing" ... ? Another noticeable hole in Lutz's story.) But then Lutz told Bruno that everything he learned to make him a member of the local Board of Elections, he learned from Dowless. No kidding.

4. Asked if anyone on or in the Bladen County Board of Elections, especially office staff, had collaborated with Dowless on the absentee ballots, Lutz said he didn't know, but then began to talk about the absence of any security at the elections office (opening more speculation). The elections board shares space with Veterans Services, and that other staff of workers has complete access to the elections space all day and night. There's an interior scanning camera on the elections side that hasn't worked in 9 years, according to Lutz, and there's no alarm system. (Somebody needs to run for County Commission down there and make the Elections Office fiasco a major campaign issue.)

5. "Lutz says he notified the SBOE about suspicious activity after the board of elections received reports from people getting absentee ballots and not requesting them. 'That’s a pretty big red flag,' ” Lutz said. Then he offered a theory of the crime that seems based on insider info: “Let’s just say somebody from previous elections [has] a database that they kept, and they got copies of the absentee requests with vital information from the voter on it. Then this person can use that, if they are skilled enough, to copy people’s signatures."

NOTE: Absentee ballot requests are public. It's the copying of voter signatures that would be illegal.

6. Lutz has knowledge of the process: “If you are savvy at this operation, you would know the time it takes [for the absentee ballot to get] from the post office to their house,” Lutz said. “All of the sudden, you show up at a person’s house and say, ‘Hey, I am here for your absentee ballot.’ No. 1, it stuns them that you know it is there, and they are apt to give it to you. They may think you are an official.” That may be the most believable thing Lutz said in his interview: unsophisticated people who know little to nothing about legal processes for voting are apt to consent when the culture is all about social niceness and accommodation. “A lot of people don’t know the election laws, and they don’t understand the procedures of this,” Lutz said. “If they are presented with someone who knows more than they do, they seem to succumb to that person.”

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