Results Still Out in North Carolina

Posted by on Dec 12, 2018 in Government, United States

The midterm elections have been finished for over a month now, right? Wrong. In fact, in one North Carolina district, allegations of fraud have paused the election process indefinitely. This post takes a closer look at what’s happening in North Carolina, and what this might mean for that district come January.

So What Happened?

Voting booths in polling place.

Voting booths in polling place. Credit: Hill Street Studios/Blend Images LLC/Glow Images

In the tight race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, Republican Mark Harris emerged as the winner on Election Night, leading Democrat Dan McCready by about 905 votes. But that simple outcome may not be all that it seems. After the election, voters in this district began coming forward, claiming that people had knocked on their doors encouraging them to request absentee ballots. Those same canvassers returned later to help voters fill out the ballots, and then collect them. But the voters allege that their ballots never made it to the State Board of Elections, meaning that they were never counted.

Hang on: it gets worse. This effort was apparently spearheaded by a man named Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr., who set up a canvassing base in a strip mall in Dublin, North Carolina. From this base, about a dozen workers went door to door to encourage voters to vote absentee, and then returned later to collect those ballots, despite the fact that it is against North Carolina state law for anyone other than a voter or a close relative of the voter to return an absentee ballot. The workers have reported that they were paid to collect the ballots and then deliver them to Dowless rather than mailing them to the state’s Board of Elections.

But that’s not all: Dowless allegedly was paid by a political consulting firm, which had been hired by Republican candidate Mark Harris’s campaign.

Suspicious Numbers

Ballot “harvesters” and voters alike have come forward with these stories of fraud, which seem to match up. But the data also seems to support these allegations. Bladen County and Robeson County are located in the part of the district where Dowless’s operations allegedly took place. In Robeson County, nearly two-thirds of absentee ballots weren’t returned: the highest number in the district. And in Bladen County, despite the fact that only 19 percent of the voters who requested an absentee ballot were registered Republicans, 61 percent of the absentee vote went to Harris, the Republican candidate. Furthermore, absentee ballots have to be signed by a witness. Three people signed as a witness for more than 40 ballots. All of this leads to a suspicion that ballots may have been removed or tampered with.

So What Happens Now?

While Republicans are defending Harris’s win and Democrats are calling fraud, the Trump administration has so far remained silent. Meanwhile, the North Carolina State Board of Elections–a bipartisan entity–has twice refused to certify the race. The Board has also subpoenaed the Harris campaign for key documents. According to North Carolina law, it’s possible for the Board of Elections to call for a new election if there is substantial doubt about an election’s fairness. There’s no official time limit on that process, meaning that it’s possible that when the new Congress convenes in January, North Carolina’s 9th District will be without representation.

Dig Deeper What is the difference between “voter fraud” and “election fraud”? Which term best describes the possible situation in North Carolina’s 9th District? Explain.