The contest between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready resulted in a 905-vote victory for Harris. But state officials have expressed mounting concerns about absentee ballots which may have been illegally destroyed, giving Harris the advantage.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is collecting sworn affidavits from voters in Robeson and Bladen counties.
The affidavits allege that unknown people approached voters in Bladen County at their homes and asked them to hand over their absentee ballots. One voter in Bladen County submitted the following:
“On Wednesday evening about two weeks from today’s date which is October 12, 2018, a young whit [sic] lady came by and asked for my absentee ballot. She stated that she was collecting peoples [sic] ballots in the area. She had just come from another ladies [sic] house. I filled out two names on the ballot, Hakeem Brown for sheriff and Vince Rozier for board of education. She stated the others were not important. I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed at any time.”
It is illegal to collect and turn in an absentee ballot for someone else.
Lawyers for the state’s Democratic party also submitted allegations that an operative for the Harris campaign, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., was promised a $40,000 bonus if Harris won the election.“You know I don’t take checks. They have to pay me cash,” the affidavit quotes Dowless as saying. Dowless was also reportedly involved in questionable campaign tactics in 2016.
Election experts are casting doubt on the results, as well. According to Dr. Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College, via WFAE: “In Bladen County, only 19 percent of the county’s accepted absentee by mail ballots came from registered Republicans.”
“61 percent of the accepted absentee by mail ballots went Republican—the only county to do so; meaning that … Harris would have also received almost all the registered unaffiliated voters and/or some Democratic registered voters to make it to 62 percent of the vote.”
No specific allegations have been made by either the Board of Elections or the North Carolina Democratic party, but the Board of Elections voted on Friday to hold a hearing to see the evidence of election tampering. The hearing will take place before Dec. 21.
The allegations have put April’s primary between Harris and incumbent Robert Pittenger into doubt, as well; Harris beat Pittenger by just 828 votes and received 95 percent of the absentee-by-mail votes in Bladen County—where Dowless was also working for the campaign at the time.
North Carolina Republican Party chair Robin Hayes said, “Mark Harris was elected to Congress. Mark Harris is going to Congress.” Harris is a Baptist minister who aligns himself with President Donald Trump and has said that women’s ultimate purpose in life is to be a helper to her husband and to have children.
McCready, who conceded to Harris on Nov. 7, put out the following statement on Twitter.
The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. My statement on today’s ruling. pic.twitter.com/9en4SWZvAh— Dan McCready (@McCreadyForNC) December 1, 2018
North Carolina’s 9th district spans from Charlotte, in the southwestern part of the state, to Robeson County near the coast, up to Fayetteville.