A hotly contested Congressional race in North Carolina remains in limbo amid an investigation over possible election fraud

Dan McReady/Mark Harris

  • North Carolina officials are delaying certification of the results of the race for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district while they investigate possible election fraud. 
  • In the November 6 election, Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by a margin of 905 votes after beating incumbent Rep. Rob Pittenger in the primary.
  • State election officials are investigating potential absentee ballot fraud as a possible cause for irregularities in the results from two countries in the district.

The 2018 midterm elections were held almost a month ago, but the results of a closely-contested North Carolina Congressional race are in doubt as the state elections board delays certification of the results while it reviews allegations of ballot tampering and election fraud. 

In the Nov. 6 election, Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by just 950 votes in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional district, after beating incumbent Congressman Rob Pittenger in the May primary.

But earlier this week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Reform voted unanimously to delay certification of the results due to the number of mail-in ballot irregularities reported in Bladen and Robeson Counties, including unusually high rates of absentee ballots being requested by voters but not returned.

 „We encourage all allegations of voter fraud to be investigated and prosecuted, and perpetrators should go to prison,“ the North Carolina GOP said in a Thursday statement. „However, Democrats are throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the wall to try and steal an election.“ 

The investigation and move to delay the certification was not, however, spearheaded by Democrats. The Board of Elections is made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one unaffiliated member. 

See also: Here are the results of the 27 most competitive House races in the 2018 midterm elections

„Today’s news reports of the serious allegations in Bladen County are troubling,“ the McReady campaign said Thursday. „I stand with voters all across the 9th district in wanting to make sure any wrongdoing is investigated and prosecuted regardless of the outcome of the election.“

In at least six affidavits obtained by WSCO-TV, some witnesses described overhearing a local political operative working on behalf of Harris — Leslie McRae Dowless — saying she hired 80 people to do „absentee“ for the Harris campaign, and would receive a $40,000 cash bonus if Harris won. 

Bladen and Robson County voters who submitted other sworn affidavits said they received absentee ballots they did not request, and were canvassed at their homes by operatives who told them to fill out only a few races on absentee ballots, with the canvassers telling voters they would fill out and send in the rest of the ballot. 

Bladen County not only had the highest rate of votes that came from absentee ballots at 22%, compared to no more than 1.6% in any of the other counties in the district, but Harris won 96% of the absentee ballots from Bladen, compared to 62% of absentee ballots from other counties. 

Under North Carolina law, „ballot harvesting,“ or filling out and submitting absentee ballots on behalf of others is illegal. On Friday, the NCSBE decided by a 7-2 vote to hold an evidentiary hearing into the allegations before December 21st. 

Mark Harris

While the Harris campaign said in a Thursday statement that they are preparing for Harris to take office on Jan. 3rd, the fraud investigation and possible litigation over the election results could drag on for weeks, leaving control of the seat in limbo.  

As WSCO-TV reporter Joe Bruno pointed out on Thursday, the State Elections board doesn’t need to determine that voter fraud influenced the outcome to order a new election. They only need to determine that „irregularities occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.“

Gerry Cohen, a North Carolina elections expert who served as chief counsel to the North Carolina General Assembly, told INSIDER on Friday that if the Board ordered a new election, it would be re-match of just the general election contest between Harris and McReady. 

The House Committee on Administration — which has the final say in the results of contested House races — could also vacate the results of the election and re-start the entire process, which would include ordering new candidate filings, primaries, and a general election, Cohen added. Eventually, the House could end up seating McReady instead of Harris. 

Bladen County has been the subject of voting controversies in previous years, though complaints against absentee ballot results in 2016 were dismissed. “I’m very familiar with the unfortunate activities that have happened in my part of the state,“ NCSBE member Joshua Malcolm said Tuesday.

„And I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding, which has been ongoing for a number of years, and which has been repeatedly referred to the United States attorney and the district attorneys to clean up,“ he added. 

SEE ALSO: Here are the results of the 27 most competitive House races in the 2018 midterm elections

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Source: Business insider

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