RALEIGH – After four days of testimony from key figures in the absentee ballot fraud saga of the 9th Congressional District, with Republican candidate Mark Harris serving as the grand finale witness, the N.C. Sate Board of Elections concluded the case with a call for a new election on a yet to be determined date.
“Before the Board’s vote, Board Member David C. Black said the staff’s investigation should serve as a lesson that the State Board will do its best to ensure elections are run properly and fairly.
“As we stated before, this did not help the reputation of North Carolina, but we’ve turned the corner now,” Black said.
The decision could leave the congressional seat empty for months, perhaps until the fall, board attorney Josh Lawson said. New primaries will be held in addition to a new general election, with the dates set by the elections board.
Harris cited health concerns when making his announcement.
Harris left the hearing room without answering questions. It was not immediately clear whether he intends to run in a new election.
NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said he supports Harris’ decision.
Democrats lauded the board’s unanimous order for a new election.
“Over an extraordinary four-day hearing, investigators laid out point-by-point how Republican Mark Harris’ campaign funded and directed an elaborate, illegal scheme to steal an election,” said NC Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin. “North Carolina Republicans, following Mark Harris’ lead, repeatedly lied to the people of the Ninth district, silenced their voices, and undermined our entire state’s faith in our democracy. This saga could only have ended in a new election, and we look forward to repairing the harm dealt by Republicans and giving the people of the Ninth district the representative they deserve.”[…]”
So now that this chapter of the saga is (finally) over, attention will turn to the new election and who the candidates may be. Being that a primary is required to be held, and with Harris’ intentions still uncertain, it is very likely that someone new emerges to run for Republican support.
Former 9th District Congressman Robert Pittenger, who Harris narrowly beat in the primary, has previously indicated he will not run in a special election. That leaves the door open for a well-connected Republican with the backing of the NCGOP to make the attempt at overcoming the baggage of this whole saga.
While the testimony all this week provided convincing evidence that illegal and unethical behavior occurred, what it did not prove was that the bad behavior was so extensive as to change the original result of the election. Still, the Board appointed by Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper apparently felt it tainted the election enough to call for a new one.
But the tainting was most definitely not relegated to the Republican side of things. Even within this week’s hearing, the public heard evidence of Democratic operatives funded by Democratic PACs, who got portions of their money from the N.C. Democratic Party itself, was intimately involved in similar absentee ballot harvesting operations. Not to mention that investigators did even give equal consideration to the mountain of evidence sketchy practices perpetrated by Democrats one county over in Robeson.
And N.C. Democratic Party chair Wayne Goodwin (and especially Democrats in Robeson County) are breathing a sigh of relief that they got away with it. Giving Robeson County even a tenth of the attention paid to Bladen County and Republicans would mean finding Left-sponsored fraud in support of Dan McCready and down ballot Democrats that would have balanced out, if not dwarfed, what the Harris campaign engaged in.
Alas, it’s hard to justify a call for new elections that put the wind at the back of Democrats if a clear advantage to one side or the other isn’t established. The new Board of Elections may think it has turned a corner, but it merely demonstrated the unequal treatment of Democrats and Republicans when it comes to election tampering.
You can read more about the final days of testimony and the Board’s vote at ABC11.
The new election dates should also spur Governor Cooper to call another special election for North Carolina’s Third Congressional District, which is vacant after the passing of long time Congressman Walter B. Jones.