Man at center of North Carolina election fraud probe turned in hundreds of absentee ballot requests

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The man at the center of an election fraud investigation in a North Carolina congressional race turned in nearly half of the requests for absentee ballots in a single county, records released Tuesday by the state’s elections board show.

Leslie McCrae Dowless, a veteran political operative in Bladen County who was convicted of insurance fraud in 1992 and was connected to questionable absentee ballot activity in another election, is at the center of a probe into unusual activity in the county.
Dowless worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, a Baptist minister who tallied 905 more votes than Democratic businessman and retired Marine Dan McCready.
Dowless personally turned in 592 of the 1,341 total absentee ballots requested in Bladen County. Only 684 absentee ballots were ultimately cast in the county. Dowless did not return CNN’s request for comment. Dowless has denied any wrongdoing to The Charlotte Observer.
The state’s Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement last week refused to certify Harris as the winner as it investigates potential misconduct. If the nine-member board determines the election was tainted enough to cast doubt on its outcome, it can order another election.
The probe appears to focus on Bladen and Robeson counties, which each had unusually high rates of absentee ballot requests and unreturned absentee ballots.
In Bladen County, officials kept records of who turned in absentee ballot requests in person. Those records were made public by the state elections board late Tuesday afternoon.
The board also released envelopes of 184 absentee ballots in Bladen County they received back as return to sender mail because it was undeliverable. These ballots were requested in some form but the addresses designated were undeliverable.
Both Bladen County and Dowless have been at the center of controversy over absentee ballots before. In 2014, Dowless worked for Jim McVicker, who was narrowly elected sheriff amid allegations of absentee ballot misconduct. McVicker did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday and his office said he was unavailable.
In 2016, Dowless — this time as a winning candidate in a race for the Bladen Soil and Water Conservation District — claimed absentee ballot irregularities. The state board of elections dismissed his complaint.
In recent 9th Congressional District elections, absentee ballots have tipped in favor of the candidates employing Dowless.
In 2016, Todd Johnson, a Republican who had hired Dowless as he opposed Rep. Robert Pittenger in a primary, won 221 of the 226 absentee ballots cast in the district — even as Johnson finished third in the primary. Johnson did not respond to requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.
This year, Harris won 437 absentee ballots in Bladen County to Pittenger’s 17, though there was no allegation of ballot tampering in that race. Harris won 420 absentee votes in the general election in Bladen County to McCready’s 258.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said her office and the State Bureau of Investigation have launched criminal investigations into what appear to be voting irregularities in Bladen County in 2016.
Freeman told CNN she opened the investigation this February based on information forwarded by the state elections board. The same information was sent to Bladen County District Attorney Jon David, she said, but he requested that Freeman take the lead in the probe.
“That investigation is ongoing and encompasses now those 2016 and 2018 election cycles and focuses on what appear to be absentee ballot irregularities,” Freeman said.
She said the probe, which includes reviewing documents and interviewing witnesses, currently focuses on Bladen County but may expand beyond it. She also said she is in communication with federal authorities, but did not offer more details.
Dowless is also at the center of allegations that absentee ballots were tampered with. A set of 161 ballots obtained by CNN showed that nine people individually signed as “witnesses” on at least 10 absentee ballots. Many of those nine are loosely connected to Dowless, a review of social media accounts and public records showed.
North Carolina requires witnesses to sign absentee ballots. Usually, those witnesses are family members or friends. But a CNN review found three witnesses signed more than 40 ballots each, another signed 30 and three other people signed more than 10 apiece.
One of those people, Ginger Eason, told CNN affiliate WSOC that Dowless paid her between $75 and $100 per week to pick up finished absentee ballots. She said she handed them to Dowless and isn’t sure what happened after that.
Lacy Allison, a voter in Bladenboro, told CNN on Tuesday that Lisa Britt, a Dowless associate, had filled out an application for an absentee ballot for him. Allison said Britt had told him she’d bring it back for him to sign — but he never saw her again.
He shared Britt’s phone number with CNN, but when reached, Britt said she had no comment.
Emma Shipman, a Bladen County resident who filed an affidavit with the state elections board, said Tuesday that she’d had no interest in voting and wasn’t sure why an absentee ballot had arrived — but that she gave it to a woman who came to her door offering to help fill it out and turn it in.
Shipman said she doesn’t know who she voted for.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said.
In a sworn affidavit submitted to the elections board by North Carolina Democrats, one man says he spoke to Dowless in April and that Dowless told him he was working on absentee ballots for Harris and McVicker this year and had more than 80 people working for him.
Harris’ campaign acknowledged it had received a subpoena for documents from the state elections board.
“I want to emphasize — again — that the campaign was not aware of any illegal conduct in connection with the 9th District race; however, the campaign intends to cooperate with all lawful investigations of the conduct of the election and, like everyone else, is awaiting the outcome of the investigation by the State Board,” said John Branch, an attorney for the Harris campaign, in a statement.
By Eric Bradner, Adam Levy, Drew Griffin and Curt Devine/CNN
Posted by The NON-Conformist
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FBI report shows 17 percent spike in hate crimes in 2017

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The FBI says hate crimes reports were up about 17 percent in 2017, marking a rise for the third year in a row.

An annual report released Tuesday shows there were more than 7,100 reported hate crimes last year. There were increases in attacks motivated by racial bias, religious bias and because of a victim’s sexual orientation.

The report shows there was a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes. There was a 37 percent spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker says the report is a “call to action.” He says the offenses were “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”

The FBI says although the number of attacks has increased, so has the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate-crime data.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

By Michael Balsamo | AP

Posted by The NON-Conformist

What the Black Men Who Identify With Brett Kavanaugh Are Missing

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On Tuesday night, I was in an auditorium with 100 black men in the city of Baltimore, when the subject pivoted to Brett Kavanaugh. I expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail his Supreme Court appointment. Instead, I encountered sympathy. One man stood up and asked, passionately, “What happened to due process?” He was met with a smattering of applause, and an array of head nods.

If you think Kavanaugh receiving some measure of support from black men in inner-city Baltimore is as strange as Taylor Swift suddenly feeling the need to become a modern-day Fannie Lou Hamer, then brace yourself: The caping for Kavanaugh does make a twisted kind of sense. Countless times, black men have had to witness the careers and reputations of other black men ruthlessly destroyed because of unproved rape and sexual-assault accusations. And as that Baltimore audience member also argued, if the claims were made by a white woman, expect the damage to be triple.

 

More from Jemele Hill @The Atlantic

Posted by Libergirl

What is ‘stop-and-frisk’ — and why does President Trump want it to happen in Chicago?

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President Donald Trump said at a police conference on Monday that Chicago should implement a “stop-and-frisk” law to help cut down on crime.

“The crime spree has a terrible blight on that city, and we will do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Florida, according to ABC. “It works and it was meant for problems like Chicago. It was meant for it. Stop and frisk.”

But just what is the law — and why do some see it as racist?

And why do others see it as just being tough on crime?

What is stop-and-frisk?

Stop-and-frisk describes a divisive policy in New York City that allowed officers to stop anyone they believed “committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor” if they have a “reasonable suspicion,” The Washington Post wrote.

Some other states have adopted “stop and identify” laws that require people who are detained by police to identify themselves if an officer has reasonable suspicion that they were involved in a crime.

But the law in New York City, first implemented in 1999, gained nationwide attention — and Trump hailed the city as proof that the policy can cut down on crime.

“Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City had a very strong program of ‘stop and frisk,’ and it went from an unacceptably dangerous city to one of the safest cities in the country,” Trump said Monday, according to ABC. “And I think the safest big city in the country. So it works.”

In New York City, more than 500,000 people were stopped each year from 2008 to 2012 — with more than 5 million stopped since 2002, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

So, did it work in New York City?

It depends on whom you ask, and what you define as “work.”

Supporters of the law will tell you that the stop-and-frisk policy can help take guns off the streets. As reported by Forbes, the New York Police Department said the policy led to the recovery of 770 guns in 2011 alone. That meant a gun was found 1.9 percent of the time during a stop.

And the following year, 715 guns were found in New York City because of the policy, according to FiveThirtyEight. As noted by the outlet, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 18 percent of all guns seized in 2012 in New York City were found during a stop-and-frisk session.

Data also show violent crimes and murders decreased along with the implementation of stop-and-frisk in New York City, according to The Washington Post.

Critics point out that the rate of crime and murder remained level even after a federal judge ruled the city’s specific stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013, according to The Washington Post.

But Heather Mac Donald, a political commentator, argued in The Wall Street Journal that “proactive policing” under the law led to a decrease of murders by nearly 80 percent.

What are the critiques of stop-and-frisk?

Many point to apparent racial profiling in who gets stopped.

In 2011, for example, 685,724 people were stop-and-frisked, according to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Of those people, 88 percent were found to be innocent. Overall, just 9 percent of those stopped were white, while 53 percent were black and 34 were Hispanic. The 2010 census reported that 33 percent of New York City residents are white, while 26 percent are black and another 26 percent are Hispanic.

Black people make up a majority of those stopped for every year there is data, while white people barely make up 10 percent of those stopped on average. In a report, Jeffrey Fagan, from Columbia Law School, examined police data on stop-and-frisk and found that race has a “marginal influence” on who gets stopped — even when accounting for “the social and economic characteristics” of the area.

Fagan also said there is little evidence that the policy helped prevent crime or reduce murders.

“Anyone who says we know this is bringing the crime rate down is really making it up,” Fagan told The Washington Post in an interview.

Why was New York City’s stop-and-frisk law ruled unconstitutional?

For the same reason as Fagan’s concerns.

Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that the law violated the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, and that the practice was “racially discriminatory” because of the disproportionate numbers of people of color stopped by police because of it, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

After her ruling, the number of police stops of people of color dropped to 18,449 in 2015 — even though that number was just more than 160,000 in 2013, according to The New York Civil Liberties Union.

This is a 96 percent decrease from the height in 2011 of more than 600,000 stops,” Scheindlin wrote in the National Black Law Journal in 2016. “And what has happened with crime statistics in the meantime? They have remained steady!

“The enormous decrease in stops has clearly not caused an upsurge in crime despite alarmist predictions by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley,” she continued.

By Josh Magness/MiamiHerald
Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Truth Behind Chicago’s Violence No, Chicago is not an exceptionally dangerous city.

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The bloodletting in Chicago last weekend, with 74 people shot, 12 fatally, was enough to horrify even locals, who are relatively inured to chronic slaughter at the hands of gun-wielding felons. “Unbelievable,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford, a black Chicago Democrat who went so far as to call on President Donald Trump for help.
The shock was also evident beyond Chicago. Rudy Giuliani blamed Democrats in general and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in particular. The mayor’s legacy, he tweeted, is “more murders in his city than ever before.” Everywhere, there was agreement that the city’s mayhem is out of control and in urgent need of measures to contain it.
But don’t believe the hype. There are not, in fact, more murders in Chicago than ever before. The number of homicides peaked at 920 in 1991. The death toll last year was 674—and that was down 15 percent from 2016. This year, even with the latest frenzy of shootings, the number of homicides is 25 percent lower than it was at this point in 2017.

These are real signs of progress, however tardy and insufficient. If this year’s trajectory holds, it would mean some 280 fewer people dying violently this year than just two years ago. Another year on this trend line would put the city about where it was in 2013—when the number of homicides hit the lowest level in 48 years.
Contrary to popular myth, cynically promoted by Trump and other outside critics, Chicago is not an exceptionally dangerous city. In terms of violent crime, it is less afflicted than a number of large cities, including St. Louis, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
Republicans blame unbroken Democratic control of Chicago for its mayhem. But partisan coloration is an unreliable indicator of crime patterns. Of the 10 states with the highest rates of violence, seven voted for Trump. Los Angeles, whose homicide rate is enviably low, has had only Democratic mayors since 2001.
It’s easy to blame the mayor for the persistent bloodshed—and former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who is running against Emanuel in the February election, does not pass up the opportunity. McCarthy headed the Chicago Police Department from 2011 to 2015, and he claims credit for the improvement that occurred in that period.
But he was also in charge of Chicago police when an officer shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald—a gross overreaction that police labored to cover up. The spike in murders began just after the release of dashcam video showing the victim walking away from police before being riddled with bullets. The revelation, which contradicted official accounts, sparked public outrage, particularly among African-Americans.
One problem in Chicago is the dismally low number of homicides that police are able to solve—about 1 in 6. But the department’s poor reputation among many of the people most at risk discourages the sort of cooperation from citizens that cops need to catch the killers.
The city’s record of failing to discipline officers who resort to unjustified lethal force is corrosive. Last year, WBEZ reported that since 2007, the city’s Independent Police Review Authority had “investigated police shootings that have killed at least 130 people and injured 285 others”—and “found officers at fault in just two of those cases, both off-duty” incidents.
The Chicago Reporter provided additional evidence. “From 2012 to 2015, the city spent more than $263 million on settlements, judgments and outside legal counsel for police misconduct,” it found. If police want more help from the communities they serve, this is not the way to get it.
Despite these failures, the decline in homicides suggests that the city and the department are doing something right. But what that might be is hard to determine with any confidence.
The fight against crime can’t be restricted to more or better policing. Chicago’s crime problem is concentrated in a small number of poor, blighted, mostly African-American neighborhoods. Those areas owe their plight largely to a sordid history of systemic, deliberate racial discrimination and violence, endemic poverty, and official neglect over decades.
The conditions that breed rampant crime in parts of Chicago came about not by accident but by policy. The recent attention shows that people here and elsewhere care about the violence. Do they care about fixing the causes?

By Steve Chapman/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

I Went From Prison to Professor – Here’s Why Criminal Records Should Not Be Used to Keep People Out of College Stanley Andrisse was once branded a career criminal and served time in prison. Today, he is a professor at two medical schools and an advocate for higher education for those who’ve served time.

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Beginning next year, the Common Application – an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it – will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.

As a formerly incarcerated person who now is now an endocrinologist and professor at two world-renowned medical institutions – Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine – I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.

While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.

I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. The organization I lead – From Prison Cells to PhD – helped push for the change on the Common Application.

My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. A person who once sold illegal drugs on the street could become tomorrow’s medical doctor. But this can only happen if such a person, and the many others in similar situations, are given the chance.

There was a time not so long ago when some in the legal system believed I did not deserve a chance. With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. My prosecuting attorney once stated that I had no hope for change.

Today, I am Dr. Stanley Andrisse. As a professor at Johns Hopkins and Howard University, I now help train students who want to be doctors. I’d say that I have changed. Education was transformative.

US incarceration rates the highest

The United States needs to have more of this transformative power of education. The country incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other nation in the world. The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe.

More from TheConversation

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Black farmers were deliberately sold ‘fake seeds’ in scheme to steal their land: report

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Black farmers in the Mid-South region surrounding Memphis used science to uncover a multi-million dollar scheme to put them out of business and steal their farmland, WMC News reported Tuesday.

At the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show show in March of 2017, African-American farmers believe that Stine Seed Company purposefully sold them fake seeds.

Thomas Burrell, president of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, explained how black farmers were receiving one-tenth of the yield as their white neighbors.

“Mother nature doesn’t discriminate,” Burrell said. “It doesn’t rain on white farms but not black farms. Insects don’t [only] attack black farmers’ land…why is it then that white farmers are buying Stine seed and their yield is 60, 70, 80, and 100 bushels of soybeans and black farmers who are using the exact same equipment with the exact same land, all of a sudden, your seeds are coming up 5, 6, and 7 bushels?”

The results were so stark, resulting in millions of dollars in losses, the farmers took their seeds for scientific testing by experts at Mississippi State University.

The tests revealed the black farmers had not been given the quality “certified” Stine seeds for which they had paid.

Burrell suggested a land grab was the ultimate motivation of the perpetrators.

“All we have to do is look at here: 80 years ago you had a million black farmers, today you have less than 5,000. These individuals didn’t buy 16 million acres of land, just to let is lay idle. The sons and daughters, the heirs of black farmers want to farm, just like the sons and daughters of white farmers.”

“So we have to acknowledge that racism is the motivation here,” Burrell concluded.

The farmers have filed a class-action lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western Division in Memphis.

A state legislator is also seeking an investigation into the scheme.

Tennessee Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) vowed state government would investigate “issues which have negatively impacted our black farmers.”

“We will explore the avenues — whether its civil, whether it’s criminal — dealing with fraud,” Rep. Hardaway vowed.

One farmer victimized, David Hall, explained why he had paid extra for high quality seeds.

“We bought nearly $90,000 worth of seed” Hall explained. “It’s been known to produce high yield, so you expect it, when you pay the money for it, to produce the high yields.”

The farmers “were effectively duped,” Burrell told WREG-TV. “It’s a double whammy for these farmers, it accelerates their demise and effectively it puts them out of business.”

“No matter much rain Mother Nature gives you, if the germination is zero the seed is impotent,” Burrell reminded.

Myron Stine of Stine Seed Company said in a statement: “The lawsuit against Stine Seed Company is without merit and factually unsupportable. Stine takes seriously any allegations of unlawful, improper, or discriminatory conduct and is disturbed by the baseless allegations leveled against the company. Upon learning of these claims, the company took swift action to conduct an internal investigation, which has not revealed any evidence that would support these allegations. Stine intends to vigorously defend itself against this meritless lawsuit and has filed a motion to dismiss. Our focus is on continuing to serve all our customers with the highest degree of integrity and respect that are the bedrock of our company’s values.”

By Bob Brigham/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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