By: Andrew Porter
There is a concept in criminal law know as the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. Under this doctrine, any evidence obtained in violation of the Constitution is inadmissible in court. Moreover, any obtained evidence stemming from a violation is also inadmissible, hence the “fruit of the poisonous tree” analogy. I never thought it applicable to politics, but Bladen county may have opened the proverbial can of worms, and we all know worms love fruit.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections has refused to certify the election results from the 9th Congressional District due to absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County. The irregularities are under investigation, however, it appears very likely that another election will be called for the 9th Congressional District. But what about the other races on those ballots? Will new elections be called for those as well? Moreover, how far do the roots of the poisonous tree go?
The 9th District extends multiple counties, therefore, any tainted, or missing, ballots in one county will trigger a new election for the entire district. Thankfully, there have been no irregularities found with the absentee ballots collected in Cumberland County. However, it appears that people are trying find some.
A point of interest raised recently on Facebook is the amount of absentee ballots submitted in Cumberland County this year compared to 2014; 2,336 ballots in 2018, 1,212 ballots in 2014. For those who like gaudy numbers, that’s a 96% increase. I’m also assuming that the absentee ballots were categorized and tallied in the same manner for both years, which may not be true. However, I am not surprised by the increase. There has been a concerted Get Out The Vote effort by state organizations encouraging folks to vote absentee. For instance, I, a registered Democrat, received an absentee ballot request form from the Center for Voter Information, and my unaffiliated ex-girlfriend, who still gets mail at my house for some God awful reason, received an absentee ballot request form from the Voter Participation Center. I’d bet my bottom dollar that these two organizations are affiliated with one another. Moreover, the former chair of the Cumberland County Democratic Party, Dr. Vikki Andrews, said she also received the same forms.
It’s not surprising that more folks decided to request absentee ballots when they were provided with the forms, especially those in rural areas. Unfortunately, this played right into the hands of those accused of creating the irregularities in Bladen county. If you received absentee ballots from a third party, then why can’t a third party pick them up and deliver them for you? I believe this honest misconception among voters is what poisoned the results in the 9th Congressional District. Hopefully, we should know soon how far the blight has spread, but it is my hope, and belief, that it stops at the county line.