For all the talk of Republicans repeatedly accusing Democrats of "voter fraud" and "fixing close elections", the one clear example of election fraud this year is from Republicans, cheating in North Carolina. The NC GOP is quickly moving to get the nation's strictest voter ID measure in place, all while it looks like Democrat Dan McCready may have had victory stolen by election officials in Bladen County, to the point where it now looks like the House race for NC-9 may get a new election.
North Carolina officials voted Friday to continue investigating fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, potentially delaying certification of the results for weeks and leaving open the possibility that a new election could be called.
The decision cast new uncertainty on the race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, who are separated by only 905 votes out of 283,317 ballots cast, according to unofficial returns. The Associated Press on Friday announced it was revoking its projection that Harris won the southeastern North Carolina seat. The inquiry further roiled a state already divided over issues of voting rights, voter suppression and fraud.
Republicans spent the week in Raleigh drafting legislation to implement a new voter-approved requirement to present identification at the polls — an effort that the GOP has said is necessary to combat voter fraud. But they were mostly mum as evidence mounted that a different kind of election fraud may have taken place 100 miles south, other than to demand that the state board quickly certify Harris’s narrow lead.
“It’s a big juxtaposition to focus on a non-problem and ignore a huge problem,” said Gerry Cohen, a former counsel to the state legislature and an expert on election law. He noted that voter ID laws can’t prevent the kind of absentee ballot fraud alleged in the 9th District.
Harris of course wants his victory certified ASAP.
In a statement Friday, Harris accused the election board of a lack of transparency and called for the results to be immediately certified.
“Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties,” Harris said. “But to date, there is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race. Accordingly, the Board should act immediately to certify the race while continuing to conduct their investigation. Anything else is a disservice to the people of the Ninth District.”
The problem is it looks like there was a major GOP vote-stealing operation in Bladen County involving scamming black voters specifically out of their absentee ballots, and Harris's campaign looks like it was involved.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has collected at least six sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen County, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested.
Among the allegations is that an individual who worked for the Harris campaign coordinated an effort to collect and fill in, or discard, the ballots of Democratic voters who might have otherwise voted for McCready. Several of the affidavits come from elderly African American voters. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot, whether to turn it in or discard it.
Officials are also examining unusually high numbers of absentee ballots cast in some precincts in the 9th District — and unusually high numbers of ballots requested but never returned. Harris’s narrow victory over incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) in the Republican primary is also under scrutiny, with new attention on the incredibly high proportion of absentee ballots — 96 percent — that Harris won in Bladen County.
The nine-person state board, which includes four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member, voted 7 to 2 in favor of holding a hearing by Dec. 21 “to assure that the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result.”
If these allegations are true, then Mark Harris stole an election, period. He should be going to jail, not the House.
Stay tuned. This one's not over by a long shot.