Ballot security was a worry long before disputed House race


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BLADENBORO, N.C. (AP) — Six months ago, election officials in rural North Carolina's Bladen County resolved to tighten security at their headquarters and protect the ballots stored there by installing an alarm and video cameras and securing an unlocked door that leads to another government office.

The fixes never got done before Election Day. The then-chairman of the county commissioners, who control the purse strings, did not see the need.

Now Bladen County is at the center of a disputed congressional election rife with suspicions of fraud, including the possibility that absentee ballots were altered or discarded.

With the congressional race now under investigation by state authorities, the state has refused to certify the results of the Nov. 6 vote in the 9th District, where Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. Both parties concede a do-over election might be needed.

No evidence has surfaced to suggest ballots were stolen or tampered with inside the building. But warnings about the potential for political chicanery in Bladen County have been raised for years.

Marshall Tutor, who was lead investigator for the state Board of Elections for 15 years, says he frequently traveled to the county to look into accusations of wrongdoing. He found residents were often hesitant to talk to outsiders.

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