Allegations Of Voter Fraud In North Carolina May Lead To A New Congressional Election

Dec 8, 2018
Copyright 2018 WFAE. To see more, visit WFAE.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The midterm elections are not over in North Carolina. After allegations of fraud, the Republican, who was first thought to be the winner, now says he'd support the idea of a new election if it's determined fraud did change the outcome. Joining us now from member station WFAE in Charlotte is reporter Steve Harrison. Steve, thanks for being with us.

STEVE HARRISON, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: And both the Republican, Mark Harris, and the Democrat, Dan McCready, have weighed in on these allegations. What have they said?

HARRISON: So McCready went first. He said on Thursday that Harris has bankrolled criminal activity. That's a reference to a Bladen County political operative who pushed people to vote absentee by mail and then allegedly illegally harvested their ballots.

SIMON: Now wait. When you say harvested, that means, you know, picking them up, opening them and discarding the ones you don't want?

HARRISON: Well, not necessarily. It definitely means that he picked them up from voters, which is illegal in North Carolina. You know, in this state, once you - it's your mail ballot, and you're responsible for getting it to the mailbox or to the Board of Elections. So this operative kind of went and collected them. We don't know exactly what he did with them.

So McCready said there should be a new election if the state board finds that it's been tainted. And then Mark Harris released a video on Twitter yesterday. He said he didn't know anything about the alleged wrongdoing. And he said he would be OK with a new election if the state board finds that any fraud would've changed the outcome. And that's a big difference because McCready's saying you should vote if it's been tainted, which it appears to have been. Harris says the result would have to change.

SIMON: Meaning they would have to establish that - what is it? - more than 900 votes were at stake?

HARRISON: That's right. So Harris is ahead by 905. And if you take away every absentee-by-mail vote that Harris received in the two contested counties, he's still ahead by 259 votes.

But kind of going back to what you said, the Democrats are saying it's more complicated than that. They say it's possible these operatives harvested or collected people's ballots and then could've thrown away the ballots that weren't favorable to them. You know, we don't know who might've won.

SIMON: Well, what's the latest in the investigation?

HARRISON: So the state board said yesterday that the Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless is a person of interest. It also said it's issued subpoenas to the Harris campaign, as well as the local sheriff and a political consultant that hired Dowless. They haven't said exactly what they're looking for. But presumably, a big part of the investigation is trying to find people who voted by mail and then handed their ballots over to someone who knocked on their door. And they're trying to match those people up with people who were - the elections boards have no record of receiving those ballots.

SIMON: How strong a possibility is it that there might be a whole new election?

HARRISON: I think there is. There has been a lot of talk here about that, not officially from the state board. But I think when you have both candidates kind of saying they would be open to it, it's really on the table. And the state board does have the ability to do this. They can call an election if - by law, if improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubts on its fairness.

SIMON: And any idea when a new election might be in the 9th District?

HARRISON: So - right. We have no idea. And they have said they are mindful that the new Congress is supposed to be seated on January 3. But I think it's going to be probably very difficult if they do do an election to get it done that quickly. Another question is, kind of what kind of election would you have? Would you redo the entire 9th District...

SIMON: Yeah.

HARRISON: ...Election that covers eight counties? Would it be just for the 9th District? Or there's been some talk of, do you go back to the May Republican primary between Harris and Robert Pittenger, who was the incumbent...

SIMON: OK.

HARRISON: ...And do you redo that one?

SIMON: Thanks very much, Steve Harrison.

HARRISON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.