Editorial: New 9th District election must prompt other much-needed reforms

Posted February 22, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 22, 2019 5:58 a.m. EST

CBC Editorial: Friday, Feb. 22, 2019; Editorial #8393
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

There is nothing more important in an election – no matter the outcome – than all voters having full confidence in the accuracy of the results.

It is unfortunate that for the last 104 days Republican candidate Mark Harris – and many in the state’s GOP establishment -- didn’t care about that for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

It took four days of testimony this week from a dozen witnesses before the state Board of Elections -- highlighted by the emotionally wrenching scene of a son destroying much of his father’s credibility – for Harris to end the stonewalling.

Finally, Thursday afternoon he stated “the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.” His 905-vote lead was a fiction built on tainted absentee ballots.

Within a couple of hours of his statement, the Board of Elections unanimously voted to order a new election – setting in motion the process so, finally, the people in that congressional district might have legitimate representation.

The testimony Harris and the rest of North Carolina heard this week was no different than the evidence and reports the state board’s investigators as well as news reporters had uncovered just a few weeks after the election.

There’s more than ample testimony and evidence for criminal prosecutors to sift through. Wake County District Attorney Lorren Freeman's ongoing probe of 2016 election activities by Bladen County political fixer McRae Dowless – the apparent mastermind of the absentee ballot scheme at the root of the tainted election -- will easily be expanded to include the latest allegations.

Further, we hope and encourage U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon’s office to take a serious look at what happened here. It would be an opportunity to resurrect his office’s reputation after it failed to explore these problems when the state Board of Elections passed along worrisome findings two years ago.

We’re thankful for the persistence of the Board of Elections staff – particularly amid the political manipulating by state legislative leaders that embroiled the agency in litigation – for its focus on its duty.

This ordeal must open state lawmakers' eyes and prompt recognition that the hyper partisanship of today is a destructive force in a democracy.

There are remedies that need to be taken seriously and acted upon:

· Adopt non-partisan congressional and legislative redistricting.

· Return to non-partisan, publically funded election of judges. The state had a program that was a national model until it was repealed by the current legislative leadership.

· Initiate a thorough examination of the rules and regulations concerning absentee voting, and other aspects of election administration.

The decision Thursday by the State Board of Elections isn’t a conclusion. But it is an opportunity to start much-needed reforms.

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