The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scamsters, Politicians, and Preachers Behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud

Univ. of North Carolina. Nov. 2021. 296p. ISBN 9781469665566. $28. HIST
In this collaboration, two Charlotte, NC–based reporters (Graff, of the website Axios, and Ochsner, of WBTV) look into an infamous case of voter fraud in North Carolina’s Bladen County. In November 2018, officials declined to certify the Ninth District Congressional race because of irregularities in absentee ballot collection, and McCrae Dowless, an operative hired by the Republican candidate Mark Harris, was a few months later accused of election fraud and mishandling absentee ballots collected in the county. Graff and Ochsner argue that the case was not as clear-cut as it seemed and that the events were influenced by racial tensions and the history of the area. The authors’ sources include many exclusive interviews with Dowless; the book also presents portraits of other key players. The first part of the book explores the events leading up to the 2018 election, in which resentment over the 2010 sheriff’s race contributed to overzealous vote collecting. The second part looks at race relations in the region from the end of the Civil War to the present era, including white supremacist movements, the Wilmington massacre of 1898, and the 2014 death of student Lennon Lacy, the cause of which remains contested. The third part recounts the aftermath of the 2018 election.
VERDICT Graff and Ochsner’s colloquial style makes a dry subject into a fascinating read. Recommended for readers interested in politics and North Carolina.
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