Friday News: Silence speaks volumes


MCCRAE DOWLESS REFUSES TO BE INTERVIEWED BY ELECTIONS OFFICIALS: Dowless declined interviews back in December, and State Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon confirmed Thursday that hasn't changed. Gannon said he couldn't confirm whether Dowless has been subpoenaed for records. The state board dubbed Dowless a "person of interest" in its investigation weeks ago. Several people have told reporters that Dowless paid them to pick up absentee ballots, a felony under North Carolina law due to tampering concerns. It's unclear whether Dowless has been interviewed by criminal investigators. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman's office is overseeing that case, and she declined to say Thursday evening. She said earlier this week that she hopes the inquiry will wrap in 30 to 60 days.

FORMER UNC TRUSTEES WRITE SCATHING LETTER TO BOG OVER FOLT'S TREATMENT: The former trustees wrote that the board’s actions “have left us unable to stay silent any longer.” The letter supports Folt’s authority to move the statue pedestal and said the university today “faces challenges created by the very people charged with governing it.” The letter is signed by prominent UNC alumni and donors who have served on the trustee board in the past. They support Folt, who they maintain “has stood strong for the University.” They say politics has become an impediment to responsible management of the university. “However, during her tenure, increasing pressure from Raleigh and the Board of Governors has put politics ahead of the best interests of education, research and patient care,” the letter said. “Silent Sam came to embody it all.”

NC FARMERS DEVASTATED BY HURRICANES LEFT IN THE LURCH BY SHUTDOWN: The Fayetteville Observer reports the shutdown has mostly closed the federal Farm Service Agency responsible for a document required in farmer applications for state disaster relief. North Carolina set aside $240 million to assist farmers who sustained losses during Hurricane Florence and Michael last year. The program is overseen by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and applications require certifications of acreage by the Farm Service Agency. State Department of Agriculture Chief Deputy Commissioner David Smith says about 900 farmers are waiting on that certification and more than 7,000 farmers say they need the program's help. The Farm Service Agency says it won't be working on relief programs when some offices open Friday and Tuesday.

JUDGE CHASTISES COLUMBUS COUNTY FOR ALLOWING GREEN CARD HOLDER TO VOTE: A federal judge has chastised election officials in North Carolina who let a Korean woman with a green card vote in three elections. The News & Observer reports Hyo Suk George had lived legally in the country for nearly two decades before a town council member at church encouraged her to vote. She registered in Columbus County with a driver’s license, Social Security number — and a green card. George voted in 2008, 2010 and 2016. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle said the board of elections in Whiteville “ought to be a little smarter than” accepting a green card as proof of voter eligibility. Green card holders are not U.S. citizens. George faced prison time for illegal voting, but Boyle let her go with a $100 fine.

FEDERAL COURTS ABOUT TO RUN OUT OF MONEY THANKS TO SHUTDOWN: Judges and court officials around the country are bracing for the likelihood that the federal judiciary will be unable to maintain its current operations within the next two weeks, once it exhausts the money it has been relying on since the shutdown began last month. Already, courts have been cutting down on expenses like travel and new hiring. Court-appointed private lawyers who represent indigent defendants have been working without pay since late December, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which provides support for the court system. There have been other disruptions. The Justice Department is among the executive branch agencies whose funding has lapsed, and at the department’s request, some federal courts have issued orders postponing civil cases in which the Justice Department is a party while the shutdown continues, according to the administrative office.