- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- In North Carolina’s 9th district, month-long voter fraud accusations have forced the state’s GOP to agree to a public hearing and, potentially, a new election.
- Though Republican Mark Harris declared victory in November, the state’s election board is declining to certify the result as it investigates mail-in ballots from two rural counties that have been called into question.
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi got involved Thursday, saying Congress can refuse to seat Harris
The congressional race in North Carolina’s 9th district might head to a new election following reports of voter fraud that could have given Republican candidate Mark Harris the lead over Democrat Dan McCready during the midterm elections.
Harris’ victory has not been certified by the North Carolina’s Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement due to what the board’s vice chair, Joshua Malcome, called “unfortunate activities” in the eastern part of the district. These, he said, include “claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities related to absentee mail ballots.”
Though Republicans at first called foul, the party has now relented. In a statement to INSIDER, Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of North Carolina’s Republican Party, said the state’s GOP believes the Board of Elections should hold a public hearing and “fully lay out the facts” regarding the fraud accusations.
“If they can show with certainty that the outcome could NOT have been changed, they need to certify Dr. Harris and continue to support all state and federal criminal investigations,” he said. “If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election. If they hold a public hearing and simply can’t determine one way or the other then, we would not oppose a short delay on the question of certification until they have more answers.”
Just last week, Woodhouse accused the state’s bipartisan election board of abusing “their discretion” after declining to certify Harris’ win. However, proof of potential fraudulent operations might have softened his stance.
Breaking: Executive Director of NC Republicans says he’s open to new election in NC-9 Congressional race. Dallas Woodhouse told CNN’s Drew Griffin he was so upset after watching CNN’s coverage of alleged fraud last night, he threw up, “this has shaken us to the core.”
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 6, 2018
On Monday, the Observer reported that Leslie McCrae Dowless, an “independent contractor” for Harris’ campaign, was accused of committing absentee ballot fraud by directing his workers to directly collect mail-in ballots, which is against the law. Dowless, court records show, is a convicted fellon who has faced jail time for fraud and perjury. He denied any wrongdoing in this election cycle.
However, at least two people have come forward saying Dowless paid them to pick up absentee ballots. Speaking to local news station WSOC, Cheryl Kinlaw, a woman who said she was paid $100 to pick up the ballots, said she didn’t think this was illegal because Dowless “has been doing it for years.”
“I feel bad now that I know that it wasn’t legal, but I didn’t know at the time,” she said.
Exclusive: A second woman, Cheryl Kinlaw, tells me she was paid $100 by McCrae Dowless to pickup absentee ballots. She said she never thought it was illegal because Dowless "has been doing it for years." She says needed extra money for Christmas presents. #NC09 #ncpol @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/AR4AOyXROa
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 4, 2018
An analysis by the Observer found that across the 9th district, 24% of the requested mail-in ballots were unreturned, the majority of them associated with minority voters. More than 40% of the ballots requested by African-American voters and more than 60% requested by Native American voters were not sent back to election officials. For white voters, the Observer found, that number was 17%.
On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Congress can refuse to seat Harris.
“Any member-elect can object to the seating and swearing-in of another member-elect. We’ll see how that goes,” she said.
The 9th district’s alleged fraud scandal comes as the state’s Republican legislature passed a voter ID law during a lame duck session on Thursday. The law would prevent in-person fraud and is similar to a law passed in 2013 that was struck down by courts for its intent to discriminate against minority voters.