The North Carolina Board of Elections ordered a new election to be held in the state’s Ninth Congressional District after extensive evidence showed that the Republican candidate hired an operative who ran an illegal ballot fraud scheme.
The election board unanimously called for a new election after the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, interrupted his testimony to call for a do-over after months of resisting exactly that prospect.
In November, Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes but the elections board refused to certify the result over evidence of fraud.
The absentee ballot totals did not add up. Harris won 61 percent of the absentee ballots in Bladen County even though Republicans accounted for just 19 percent of the absentee ballot requests, The New York Times reported.
Investigators soon discovered a scheme run by former convicted felon and longtime Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless. It wasn’t the first time he had been accused of fraud. Investigators looked at how his candidate managed to get 98 percent of the absentee ballot vote in one county but the investigation went nowhere.
At the hearing, workers hired by Dowless testified that they were paid to illegally collect voters’ unfilled ballots, filled them out with votes for Republicans, and submitted them to Dowless.
According to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman also said last year that hundreds or more ballots may have been destroyed.
At the hearing, Harris’ own son, who is a federal prosecutor, testified that he warned his father about Dowless’ long history of fraud but his warnings were ignored.
As Harris was being questioned by a Democratic lawyer during the hearing, his attorneys called for a break and he returned to read a prepared statement.
Harris told the board that he had two recent strokes that left him with issues with recall. After months of insisting that he should be certified as the winner, Harris left the courtroom in gasps.
“It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the Ninth District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” he said as he put an end to his testimony under oath.
Harris may run again:
As part of a new election, both parties will also hold new primaries. Harris has not commented on whether he will run for the Republican nomination again but his wife said he is considering it. It’s unclear when the election will take place but the general election should happen by late summer or early fall, WNCT reports.
Several other Republicans have expressed interest in running. McCready is expected to remain the nominee after raising a ton of money during the controversy to stave off a potential challenge.
“Today was a great step forward for democracy in North Carolina,” McCready said after the hearing, according to The New York Times. “From the moment the first vote was stolen in North Carolina, from the moment the first voice was silenced by election fraud, the people have deserved justice.”