GOP to NC elections board: Show evidence of fraud or certify 9th District election
Posted December 17, 2018 12:35 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2018 8:45 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Republican leadership in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District called Monday on the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to certify results in the race despite an ongoing investigation of election irregularities.
The call brings GOP leadership full circle in some ways: After initially calling for the board to certify Mark Harris' victory in the race, the state party's executive director last week all but called for a new election.
Republican legislators passed a bill allowing for a new primary if a redo is needed.
Since then, the state board has delayed the public hearing where it plans to lay out the results of its investigation. Once planned for no later than this Friday, it's now slated for Jan. 11.
That's a week after the new Congress will be seated in Washington, D.C. The 9th District's executive committee said in its resolution that it supports the ongoing investigation, but the delay is acceptable "only if substantial public evidence is presented immediately to justify it."
"The committee felt strongly it was a gross abuse of process to prevent the 9th from having a member in the new Congress without one piece of measurable public evidence presented before Jan. 3," North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said in a text Monday.
The 9th District's executive committee passed its resolution over the weekend, and the decision was unanimous, the resolution states.
It was presented Monday as an open letter to Kim Strach, the state board's director, and Josh Lawson, the board's attorney. It was signed by 9th District's party chairman and vice chairwoman, John Steward and Susan Mills, as well as state party Chairman Robin Hayes and Vice Chairwoman Michele Nix.
"The Board of Elections has failed to demonstrate in a timely manner the evidence regarding the allegations concerning the voting irregularities surrounding the Ninth Congressional District," the resolution states. "The lack of transparency is concerning ... If the State Board is unable to provide evidence the alleged voting irregularities would have changed the outcome of the race, they should immediately certify the results of the Ninth District Congressional contest."
The state board has been looking into absentee ballot results, particularly in Bladen and Robeson counties, and the role a Harris consultant named McCrae Dowless played in those results. Interviews suggest Dowless may have coordinated a ballot harvesting operation, sending people door to door to collect ballots, which is illegal in North Carolina due to tampering concerns.
There are also allegations that early voting results were tabulated early in Bladen County. If they were shared with one side over the other, that would create an advantage in last-minute turnout planning, and Woodhouse and Hayes said last week that alone would be enough to require a new election.
The 9th District executive committee said in the resolution that, if results were leaked and used in a way that resulted in a substantial likelihood of changing the outcome of the race, then a new election is likely required. The committee also said the state board must either certify Harris as the winner or "show that any alleged voting irregularities changed the outcome of the race or there is a substantial likelihood it could have been changed."
State law gives the board more leeway than that, not only allowing it to order a new election if irregularities amount to enough votes to swing an election but if it finds "irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness."
The 9th District committee called on the board Monday to "hold a public hearing immediately and lay out the facts."
"If the State Board of Elections can show substantial likelihood the alleged voting irregularities could have changed the race, then we fully support a new election," the committee said. "However, the standard for a new election must be high. The 285,000 people who cast legitimate ballots and the more than 750,000 people who will go unrepresented in Congress deserve to be heard."
The state board said last week it needed to extend its investigation, in part, because it's waiting on entities that have been subpoenaed to provide requested information.