Republicans, Democrats agree new election may be necessary amid fraud claims in 9th district

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new election for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district looks more likely as state Republican leaders joined the Democrats in saying a re-vote may be necessary.

Totals from the Nov. 6 general election have Republican candidate Mark Harris ahead of Democratic opponent Dan McCready by 905 votes, but allegations of voter fraud continue to grow. Most of these claims of impropriety involve a Bladen County man hired by the Harris campaign.

The North Carolina State Board of Election decided unanimously on Dec. 4 that it would not certify the results. The Board is comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one unaffiliated member.

McCready withdrew his concession on Thursday, and Harris responded Friday with a brief video posted to Twitter.

Over the weekend, more Bladen County voting irregularities surfaced.

“New reports show that the Bladen County Board of Elections leaked early vote information,” North Carolina Democratic Party chairman Wayne Goodwin said.

North Carolina Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes and executive director Dallas Woodhouse said that information can give candidates an unfair advantage.

“It is key because it tells you what the electorate is looking like, what the turnout looks like,” Woodhouse said. “Should the early voting numbers have been leaked out by election officials, that is a fundamental unfairness in this election. We are pretty certain that happened, and if it is confirmed, a new election is appropriate.”

Both political parties called press conferences Tuesday afternoon to discuss their concerns with how Bladen County election officials handled votes on and leading up to Nov. 6.

Goodwin read a lengthy list of questions they have for Mark Harris, who has not talked the media since the state began its initial investigation into reports of voter fraud.

Most of the Democrat’s questions involve Harris’s connection to McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County Soil and Conversation District supervisor who was hired by a political consulting firm on behalf of the Harris campaign.

Bladen County Board of Election documents show Dowless requested ballots for hundreds of absentee ballots. He and his family members served as witnesses for many of the mail-in ballots. Some voters told investigators they did not complete their ballots, which were collected by people hired by Dowless in order to be returned.

“There is overwhelming evidence that Mark Harris’s campaign is directly connected to an election fraud operation that illegally collected and potentially threw out absentee ballots. The public deserves to know at a bare minimum more about Harris’s involvement with McCrae Dowless,” Goodwin said.

“Harris has yet to answer simple questions like the following: When did you first meet McCrae Dowless? Who introduced you? Why did you hire him in 2018? What did you think Dowless was being hired to do?”

The Harris campaign did not reply to CBS 17’s request for a response to the Democratic Party’s comments.

The only public statement from Harris came the day after McCready withdrew his concession and called on his opponent to explain what he knew about voting irregularities.

An 83-second video uploaded to Harris’s social media accounts began:

“I wanted to personally let you know that my campaign and I are cooperating fully with the State Board of Elections investigation, and we will continue to do so. I trust the process that’s underway, just as I’ve always trusted the decisions of the voters,” Harris said.

“Although I was absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing, that will not prevent me from cooperating with this investigation.”

Harris said he will support a new election if investigators find proof of illegal activity which affected enough votes to change the outcome.

State Senator Floyd McKissick of Durham said Democrats will continue to demand answers about Dowless and the Harris campaign.

“Not one more day should pass before Mark Harris is held accountable. Hopefully we’ll see a new election that allows the voters of the ninth congressional district to elect their candidate of choice,” McKissick said.

“This is about restoring public trust and confidence in our elections, especially among communities that too often feel as if they’re forgotten and set aside.”

McKissick said more than 40 percent of absentee ballots requested by African-Americans and 60 percent of those requested by Native Americans did not make it back to election officials, while only 17 percent of mail-in ballots from white voters were not returned.

The NCGOP’s executive director said that while another round of voting may be necessary, it may not be reflective of the original will of the electorate. Woodhouse said voter turnout is lower in 

“The losers would clearly be that 286,000 people that cast legal votes that are not in question,” Woodhouse said.

“Losing those legally cast votes is a dark day for democracy in North Carolina.  It is an atrocious result.  The most important thing is that people in the ninth district has confidence that the person that represents them in Washington is there with the support of the voters.”

Goodwin said the Democrats are happy that the Republicans are now talking about a new election becoming a reality.

“I welcome what appears to be a change of heart by the North Carolina Republican Party,” he said. “I do welcome them if the Republicans now believe a new general election is warranted. I believe that it is, based on all that I’ve seen and heard.”

The first session of the 116th Congress will begin on Jan. 3.

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