NC GOP Says New Fraud Claim May Warrant Election Re-Do In Race Under Scrutiny

Republican NC-9th District Congressional candidate Mark Harris answers questions at a news conference at the Matthews Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Matthews, N.C. Harris declared victory over Democrat Dan McCready early Wednesday morning and McCready later conceded. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

New allegations that a House race in North Carolina — which is already under investigation due to an apparent absentee ballot fraud scheme — was also the site of an improper release of early vote totals prompted the state Republican Party on Tuesday to call for a new election in the race if the new claims prove true.

The new allegations, reported on by the Charlotte Observer, emerged with the release of documents from the North Carolina’s State Board of Elections’ investigation into the alleged absentee fraud scheme, where ground zero of the probe is Bladen County, a part of the North Carolina’s ninth congressional district.

Reports with vote totals released by the state board showed that a tally at the only early voting location in Bladen County was run on November 3. North Carolina law mandates that such a tallying wait for the closing of all polls — in this case, 7:30 p.m. on November 6.

Additionally, according to the Charlotte Observer, a poll worker said in affidavit that the report was run on November 3 and that it “was viewed by officials … who were not judges,” which, in the poll worker’s understanding, was “improper.”

North Carolina GOP Chair Robin Hayes said in a statement Tuesday that such a “leak” of early vote totals “would be a fundamental violation of the sense of fair play, honesty, and integrity that the Republican Party stands for.”

“The people involved in this must be held accountable and should it be true, this fact alone would likely require a new election,” Hayes said.

Hayes pointed to the surprise recent resignation of the chair of the county board of elections, a Democrat, to argue that a “systematic failure of the election process in this area of the state” had been “going on for at least the last decade.”

Hayes’ statement called for the state board, rather than the county board, to oversee the new election in the House race if the state board decides one should be held.

The Republican candidate Mark Harris (pictured above) currently leads Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes, but the state board declined to certify the election earlier this month and voted to pursue an investigation into the election instead. The board said it would hold a hearing on or before December 21 on the evidence its probe turns up.

The investigation so far appears focused on an absentee voting operation run by Leslie McCrae Dowless, who reportedly paid workers to collect absentee ballots from voters. North Carolina law says that only the voters themselves or their close relatives can turn in absentee ballots.

The North Carolina GOP at first demanded that Harris’ victory be certified right away, arguing that there weren’t enough absentee ballots in question to change the outcome of the race. The party has since said that it supports the investigation proceeding, and would be in favor of a new election if the board found a “substantial likelihood” that the ballot scheme changed the impact of the race.

Under North Carolina law, state election officials don’t need to find that fraud changed an election’s outcome in order to call a new election. The state statute allows election officials to take any action “necessary to assure that an election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption.”

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