North Carolina GOP open to new election if fraud found in congressional race
|Toronto Star 06 Dec 2018 at 13:48|
RALEIGH, N.C.‚ÄĒThe North Carolina Republican Party would support a new election in the state‚Äôs unresolved congressional race if an investigation shows that wrongdoing swayed its outcome, its executive director said Thursday, softening the organization‚Äôs stance as allegations of absentee ballot fraud mount.
Amid the developments, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the House ‚Äúretains the right to decide who is seated‚ÄĚ and could take the ‚Äúextraordinary step‚ÄĚ of calling for a new election if the winner isn‚Äôt clear.
Unofficial totals have Republican Mark Harris leading Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. But the state elections board refused to certify the results last week because of allegations of ‚Äúirregularities and concerted fraudulent activities‚ÄĚ involving mail-in ballots in the district. The board is meeting later this month to hear evidence, but it‚Äôs unclear whether the race will be settled then.
‚ÄúIf they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race then we fully would support a new election,‚ÄĚ he said.
However, he said if the investigation shows that the outcome would not have been changed, Republican candidate Harris should be certified the winner.
Entertaining the idea of a new election represents a significant change from last Thursday, when state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes issued a statement saying: ‚ÄúDemocrats are throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the wall to try and steal an election.‚ÄĚ On Sunday, Hayes said there weren‚Äôt enough questioned ballots to change the race‚Äôs outcome, and the next day he accused a Democratic member of the state board of ‚Äúscore-settling.‚ÄĚ
At issue is who can handle completed ballots. North Carolina law allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.
In affidavits offered by the state Democratic Party, some Bladen County voters have described that people came to their homes to collect their absentee ballots, whether or not they had been fully completed or sealed in an envelope to keep them from being altered.
The revelations and ensuing national news coverage have put pressure on Republicans and attracted attention from top Democrats.
Pelosi, who‚Äôs nominated to become House Speaker when Democrats take control in January, said Thursday that ‚Äúany member-elect can object to the seating and the swearing-in of another member elect.‚ÄĚ She also noted the investigative power of the House to determine race winners.
It‚Äôs ‚Äúbigger than that one seat,‚ÄĚ she said, pointing to the overall ‚Äúintegrity of elections.‚ÄĚ
A state election board spokesperson confirmed Thursday that subpoenas seeking documents had been sent to the Harris campaign, the firm serving as Harris‚Äô chief strategist and the campaign committee of the sitting Bladen sheriff. The board released documents showing that McCrae Dowless, a contractor hired by the firm, seems to have collected the most absentee ballot request forms in Bladen County this fall.
In North Carolina, several state Senate Republicans whose districts overlap the 9th called for further scrutiny of voting irregularities going back to 2010 and urged Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to create a bipartisan task force ‚ÄĒ separate from the state elections board ‚ÄĒ to investigate irregularities beyond this year‚Äôs election.
They point to unusual outcomes in the mail-in ballot totals in previous elections that appeared to benefit Democrats or Republicans, depending on the race and the year. They said neither election boards appointed by under governors from both parties, nor prosecutors, have adequately addressed recurring issues in Bladen.
‚ÄúWhat we cannot have going forward from this point is an investigative and enforcement effort or process that has a partisan taint that could dramatically worsen the situation,‚ÄĚ said Sen. Dan Bishop, a Charlotte Republican. But he and his colleagues were cautious about saying whether a new election is necessary.
‚ÄúIf there are not enough votes to overturn the election, then we probably need to go ahead and certify,‚ÄĚ said Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County. ‚ÄúIf we find the irregularities and the vote count being where it is, then (a new election) certainly is an option.‚ÄĚ