The Republican Party and President Donald Trump have spent a lot of time issuing hysterical, racist, and evidence-free warnings about the prevalence of “voter fraud” in the US as a pretext to roll back voting rights, but the GOP has been conspicuously silent after what has been described as a clear case of election fraud was discovered in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district (NC-09), where a Republican candidate edged out his Democratic opponent by just over 900 votes.
Last week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics voted unanimously against certifying Republican Mark Harris’ narrow win over Democrat Dan McCready, with one member of the board vaguely citing “unfortunate activities” that may have distorted the final results.
Reporting and witness testimony in the days since the board vote has detailed “a slew of evidence” indicating that GOP operatives carried out a large ballot-harvesting effort, in which thousands of absentee ballots may have been collected and destroyed in an attempt to swing the election in the Republican Party’s favor.
As USA Today notes, “A large majority of those unreturned ballots belonged to African-Americans and Native American voters.”
“There is now overwhelming evidence that Republicans in NC-09 paid people to collect mail-in ballots which were never sent in,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. “Not enough people are talking about this clear case of election fraud. A new election must be held immediately.”
Reportedly led by long-time Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Harris’ campaign, the alleged election fraud operation involved paying North Carolinians to go door-to-door and collect absentee ballots and hand them over to Dowless.
Like the woman I interviewed yesterday, Kinlaw never mailed the ballots. She gave them to McCrae Dowless. She doesn’t know what he did with them afterward. She says she has no doubt Dowless wanted Mark Harris and Sheriff Jim McVicker to win. pic.twitter.com/8zQeZvFo4g
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 4, 2018
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
One woman who says she was paid by Dowless said she wasn’t aware the operation was illegal because Dowless “has been doing it for years.” The woman said she never saw Dowless mail in the ballots.
“The Justice Department must investigate this,” declared Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “In a different time, an attorney general would be speaking forcefully against recent voter suppression efforts, vowing to do everything possible to protect fair elections. The silence now is deafening.”
Democratic congressional leaders, for their part, have vowed not to seat Harris in the new Congress until the fraud accusations are sufficiently investigated. Harris has denied any knowledge of illegal election activity. As state investigators have probed the numerous election fraud accusations in recent days, President Donald Trump — who warned about “voter fraud” repeatedly in the days prior to November’s midterms — has not yet said or tweeted a word about the North Carolina accusations.
In a statement on Wednesday, Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, demanded an emergency hearing on the possibly tainted North Carolina election.
“Real election fraud is playing out right before us,” Connelly said. “Votes have been stolen by preying on senior and minority voters, and now a cloud of doubt and suspicion hangs over this election result.”
While the Republican majority is once again chasing conspiracies, real election fraud is playing out right before us in North Carolina’s 9th CD. We must have an emergency House Oversight hearing to look into this.
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) December 5, 2018
As The Atlantic’s David Graham wrote in a summary of the North Carolina accusations, “After years of insisting there’s rampant election fraud in North Carolina and accusing Democrats of indifference or complicity, there’s finally a case that looks like real, election-changing election fraud.”
“It just so happens that it’s alleged to have benefited a Republican,” Graham concluded. “Suddenly, the North Carolina GOP is less concerned about the effects of fraud.”