The 2018 midterm elections created a blue wave far larger than many expected. But in one North Carolina congressional race, the Republican candidate still managed to beat his Democratic opponent — although only by 900 votes.
Now, a second look at the race suggests that the margin may very well have been the result of GOP election-stealing. And as a result of that fraud, the district may have to start all over with a brand new election.
Far-right Southern Baptist pastor Mark Harris beat GOP incumbent Representative Robert Pittenger in the party primary, but he struggled in the general election against Democrat Dan McCready.
Harris — who believes that the earth was created just 10,000 years ago and that wives need to submit to their husbands because the Bible says so — barely eked out his alleged November victory, coming just 905 votes ahead of McCready out of more than 200,000 votes cast.
Now that the elections board has looked closer at the actual ballots, however, they’ve realized something is clearly wrong with the results. In multiple counties in the North Carolina district, there was a flood of requests for absentee ballots. While that may not have been unusual, the pattern of which ballots were turned in on Election Day certainly was.
The New Yorker reports:
[A]n analysis of the voting data by the Raleigh News & Observer found that “the unreturned ballots are disproportionately associated with minority voters,” who tend to vote for Democrats over Republicans. In Robeson County, seventy-five per cent of the absentee ballots requested by African-Americans and sixty-nine per cent of those requested by American Indians were never received by the state.
But that wasn’t the only problem. Of those ballots that were cast, many of them appear to have been put in unsealed envelopes, and there were about a dozen people witnessing over 600 votes. Both factors, when examined together, has experts pointing to likely tampering.
Judd Legum explains:
J. Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College whose analysis of the anomalies in the North Carolina vote first revealed potential problems, agreed that the ballot envelopes showed “obvious coordination… to bring forward ballots.” Bitzer called the patterns of witnesses on the envelopes “remarkable” and agreed that they fit into the mosaic establishing potential fraud.
How suspicious are the absentee ballot irregularities? The North Carolina board of elections — a bipartisan board with four Republicans, four Democrats and one Independent – all unanimously voted not to certify the election, making it almost inevitable that a new election will have to be held in order to fill the seat.
Unable to currently certify the election results, the election board has agreed instead to investigate the election results — a process that could take up to a month and could very well leave North Carolina one representative short when the 2019 Congress meets. At the center of the investigation will be campaign consultant Leslie McCrae Dowless.
Dowless, an elected Republican office holder in his own right, is also an ex-convict who was found guilty of fraud and perjury in the 1990s.
One affidavit filed by the Democratic Party alleges Republican McCrae Dowless, who has a history of being accused of improper voter activity in Bladen County, could financially benefit from handling absentee ballots for the Harris campaign. Dowless is also alleged to have claimed he had 80 people working for him on two races, including the 9th District. Another affidavit alleged Dowless said he’d receive a $40,000 bonus if Harris won the election.
On December 21, the board will begin their evidentiary hearing. If they find no evidence of fraud, the election could still be certified and Harris sworn in with the rest of Congress in early January. If not, a whole new election will need to be scheduled to address the situation.
And Republicans will once more be forced to recognize that when it comes to real voter fraud, they themselves are the only perpetrators.