Two take pleas in ballot mishandling from 2016

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Two women from Hoke County who were indicted by a grand jury in 2019 for unlawfully possessing absentee ballots, ended up taking plea deals for lesser charges, court documents showed.

A grand jury indicted Wanda Faye Blue and Julia Shaw in July 2019 on charges of unlawful possession of absentee ballots from the 2016 primary election. Shaw pleaded guilty in Superior Court last year to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice, and Blue pleaded guilty pursuant to Alford decision to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. Pleading guilty pursuant to Alford decision means that while the plaintiff is willing to accept a charge of guilty in court, they maintain a claim of innocence and do not specifically admit to the guilt itself.

Presiding Judge Michael A. Stone dismissed the charges of 13 counts of unlawful possession of an absentee ballot against Shaw, and the charges of eight counts of unlawful possession of an absente ballot against Blue.

The initial indictment documents alleged that the two women took a number of voters’ absentee ballots into their possession to deliver them to the Hoke County Board of Elections. While it’s legal in North Carolina for a close relative or legal guardian to deliver a person’s absentee ballot to a county Board of Elections for them, Blue and Shaw were not the near relative or verifiable legal guardians of the voters whose ballots they possessed, according to the indictments.

The indictment was the second time authorities investigated Blue for alleged misconduct related to the 2016 elections, but the first time any charges were filed. Now-former Hoke Republican Party Chairman Hal Nunn, and former Republican candidate for local office Clifford Overby both filed complaints in 2016 alleging that Blue, while serving as an organizer for the Hoke County Democratic Party, visited local nursing homes and improperly signed up elderly residents to receive absentee ballots ahead of the 2016 election. Nunn’s mother – who has since passed away – was signed up for a ballot without her family’s knowledge or consent, despite her suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections investigated, and in January 2017 concluded its investigation without seeking any criminal charges against Blue or any other person.

However, while the state elections board cleared Blue of wrongdoing in that reported incident, a grand jury later indicted Blue and Shaw alleging that the two women illegally took possession of absentee ballots during the same election cycle.

Shaw received a suspended sentence of 45 days in jail, plus 12 months of supervised probation and 24 hours of community service, as well as court costs and a fine totally $575. Blue received a suspended sentence of 45 days in jail, plus 12 months of supervised probation and 24 hours of community service, as well as court costs and a fine totaling $1,175. The judge noted both of the defendants should be allowed to transfer to unsupervised probation after completing the community service.

Asked for comment about the outcome of the cases, Nunn said in an email, “While I am thankful that some charges stuck, I’m disappointed at how long it took and how lite the sentences were. It is a shame how low people will go to get a vote in this county by taking advantage of seniors especially mentally handicap seniors. Leaders of a certain group here put these folks up to it year in and year out, and they should be charged as well. Voter fraud is real, ballot harvesting should be outlawed and Voter ID should be100 percent mandatory to stop all this mess.”

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