From Serial: The Improvement Association

A true story about election fraud.,

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From Serial: The Improvement Association

A true story about election fraud.

Reported by Zoe Chace; produced by Nancy Updike, with help from Amy Pedulla; edited by Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig, Neil Drumming and Ira Glass; original score by Kwame Brandt-Pierce; and sound design and mix by Phoebe Wang.

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Published March 30, 2021Updated April 13, 2021, 5:55 a.m. ET

A few years ago, Bladen County, N.C., made national headlines. In 2018, Mark Harris, a Republican, beat out his Democratic opponent for a congressional seat, but the election was later thrown out and a new election was called after his campaign was investigated over suspicions of absentee-ballot fraud.

But according to some local residents, the authorities got it all wrong. They say there’s a powerful group still at work in the county, tampering with elections, bullying voters and stealing votes — a Black advocacy group, the Bladen County Improvement Association PAC. These accusations have never been substantiated, but they persist.

Join Zoe Chace as she travels to Bladen County to find out what’s behind all this suspicion. Who exactly is making the accusations? And in small-town politics, where rumors and allegations abound, how can you be sure who is telling the truth?

The Improvement Association Poster

Listen to Chapter One.

Who’s been cheating in Bladen County?

During a hearing that followed the notorious case of election fraud in Bladen County, the Bladen Improvement PAC was mentioned and dragged into the scandal. Later, Horace Munn, one of the PAC’s leaders, reached out to Zoe with an invitation to come down to North Carolina and hear what’s behind all these cheating allegations.

ImageA tree in the water at Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County, N.C.
A tree in the water at Jones Lake State Park in Bladen County, N.C.Credit…Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times
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From left, Nancy Updike, the producer for this series, and Zoe Chace, the reporter for this series. Credit…Sandy Honig

Zoe Chace, the reporter for this series, has been a producer at This American Life since 2015. Before that, she was a reporter for NPR’s Planet Money team, as well as an NPR producer.

Nancy Updike, the producer for this series, is a senior editor at This American Life and one of the founding producers of the show.

Transcripts of each episode of The Improvement Association will be available by the next workday after an episode publishes.


The Improvement Association was reported by Zoe Chace; produced by Nancy Updike, with help from Amy Pedulla; edited by Julie Snyder, Sarah Koenig, Neil Drumming and Ira Glass; editorial consulting by R.L. Nave and Tim Tyson; fact-checking and research by Ben Phelan; and sound design and mix by Phoebe Wang.

The original score for The Improvement Association was written and performed by Kwame Brandt-Pierce.

Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Julie Whitaker, Seth Lind, Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Emanuele Berry, Ndeye Thioubou, Alena Cerro and Lauren Jackson.

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