Who Won the NC-09 Race?
As discussed in a previous article analyzing the NC-09 district race, Dan McCready and Mark Harris faced off on November 6th, 2018. In the end, Mark Harris won by a little over 900 votes. A small margin, but definitive.
That, however, is now in question.
A little over a month after Harris was declared the winner, local news outlets began questioning the outcome of the election. Specifically, they inspected Bladen County and the absentee ballots originating there. Numerous witnesses signed affidavits alleging that a local political operative, McCrae Dowless, headed a campaign that trashed a large number of absentee ballots before the Board of Elections could count them. Witnesses stated that officials would come to their doors and ask for the absentee ballots, claiming that they would deliver them to the Board of Elections on their behalf. It is now clear that these promises were not always kept. Reports indicate that Bladen County voters did not return their absentee ballots at a rate almost 2.5 times the frequency of any other county. This is an extreme statistical outlier.
So what happened to the ballots? Witnesses are claiming that Dowless and his team disposed of the ballots after opening them and examining who they voted for, effectively erasing the votes of the residents in question.
What’s this got to do with Mark Harris?
News reports are showing that Harris had Dowless on his payroll for the 2018 election. According to witnesses, the candidate had prior knowledge of the services that Dowless offered, and thus knowingly hired him for this exact purpose. There is even photographic evidence of the two meeting. Furthermore, the primary elections for the 2018 midterm displayed the exact same abnormalities as the general election. Both instances were in Harris’s favor. While this is not irrefutable evidence of guilt, it is looking like there is at least some kind of relationship between Harris and Dowless.
To uncover what exactly transpired during the election, the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) launched an investigation into the matter. NC GOP officials, like Dallas Woodhouse, were initially supportive of the investigation and expressed their will that justice be served. However, as the investigation continued, their tone turned markedly negative. Further complicating matters, a three-judge panel ruled that the NCSBE was unconstitutionally structured, and thus had to be dissolved and reappointed. This process only completed today, January 31 — nearly three months after the original election in November. The slow pace of the investigation has incensed Harris’s attorneys. Just last week, Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied a petition by the Harris Campaign to force the NCSBE to certify the election in Harris’s favor before the investigation concluded. Thus, the race will be undecided pending an evidentiary hearing by the NCSBE. It is worth noting that Steny Hoyer, U.S. House Majority Leader, stated that Congress will not seat Harris until an investigation has absolved him of wrongdoing. For the time being, it looks like the NC-09 race will not be decided in the near future.