We're Meddling in Our Own Elections
A few weeks ago, near the end of a tense hearing on the accusations of election fraud levied against several prominent North Carolina Republicans by the State Board of Elections, disgraced Ninth District congressional candidate Mark Harris wept in the courtroom. His son, John Harris, was delivering a testimony implicating the former congressman-elect in the activities for which he was charged. John told the Board of Elections that he had informed his father of the shady history surrounding Leslie McCrae Dowless, a contractor hired by Harris’s 2018 congressional campaign. In November, Harris appeared to have won his race by a slim margin. However, allegations quickly surfaced regarding inaccuracies with absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson Counties.
In the general election, Bladen County was the only county in which Harris received more absentee ballots than his opponent, Dan McCready. The margins of absentee ballots in Bladen County did not match those in the rest of the districts, and such margins would have only been possible had Harris won a large number of independents or some number of Democrats. The trends of the district mentioned above, and those of the wider 2018 cycle, do not support this explanation. What was more damning, though, was that over 60% of requested absentee ballots in Robeson County were not returned, and over 40% were not returned from Bladen County.
A new election has since been called in NC-09, and Dowless was indicted on three counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and two counts of possession of absentee ballots.
The debacle highlights a very real and present threat to democracy from within our own country, happening right here in North Carolina. Republicans, who have long called for increased protections against voter fraud, have been strangely silent on Harris’s and Dowless’s charges. The North Carolina GOP initially said that the margin was not enough to swing the race, though it was. Now, Republicans, namely Mitch McConnell, have pivoted from the verifiable election fraud in NC-09 to once more parrot the fake threat of voter fraud, something proven to be statistically insignificant. Moreover, for a party that claims to be “for a freer America”, the GOP has consistently tried to limit voting rights across the United States. It seems that Republicans only care about secure elections when they are at risk of losing due to black and brown people voting against them.
This should be a moment of reckoning for Republicans in North Carolina and throughout the United States. How can a party claim to stand for the ideals of Republicanism while its members systematically silence the voices of black voters in Georgia, for example? How can a party claim to stand for any Democratic values when they undermine democracy through authoritarian power grabs like in North Carolina and Wisconsin? Every politician in this country should be fighting to make sure that elections are as free, fair, and open as possible. If you cannot win a free, fair, and open election, then you do not deserve to hold any kind of political power.
While the media tends to focus on the legitimate threat of foreign interference in past and future elections, it cannot be ignored that we are eating ourselves alive on our home turf. The election fraud in NC-09 was uncovered, but how many instances of this have happened in the past? How many voters have been disenfranchised because of gerrymandering and voter suppression? It has been alleged that Russian propaganda affected the 2016 election and is actively harming our democracy, but is now proven that our politicians and laws at home are doing the same.