RALEIGH – With the newly constituted State Board of Elections holding its evidentiary hearing on the 9th District fraud investigation on Monday, the NCGOP issued the following statement of confidence that they will certify Mark Harris’ victory because “the math demands so,” according to NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse.
“Monday will be the culmination of nearly three months of investigative work by the hardworking staffers of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. We firmly believe that the evidence and lack thereof will result in the certification of Congressman-Elect Mark Harris. It’s important to look at the frame of reference for these hearings, and I’d like to detail a little bit of that here.
On November 6, 2018, Dr. Mark Harris defeated his Democrat and Libertarian opponents by 905 votes. The margin of victory was well within the established margin for a recount by state statute, but Dan McCready conceded. No recount was called for and no protest was filed in any of the counties that make up the Ninth. As we all know, then-Board Vice Chair Joshua Malcolm then refused to certify the race and gave no additional information to the public besides a cursory statement.
The SBOE investigation involves absentee by mail (ABM) ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties. Dr. Harris received 420 absentee by mail votes in Bladen County. He received only 259 absentee by mail votes in Robeson County. Together, that is 679 votes. His victory margin is 905 votes. Even if all of his ABM ballots were tainted, his 905-vote margin would stand. The only way that ABM ballot irregularities could possibly affect the outcome would be if a large number of ABM ballots were collected and not delivered. There has been no credible public evidence that that situation occurred.
As time has elapsed, the arguments from the McCready campaign and the NC Democrat Party have faced scrutiny and fallen apart. Of the thirteen affidavits submitted by the McCready campaign alleging their votes were affected, eleven of them voted. The most damning affidavits, especially the one submitted by Jens Lutz, have been refuted. The NCDP held a rally in Bladen County just last weekend and failed to produce a single voter who had their vote affected despite their media advisory stating differently.
Most recently, investigations by WRAL and WBTV have turned up absentee voters who, at first glance, may have been affected by the alleged ballot harvesting. As it turns out, these people did indeed submit absentee votes but simply weren’t counted because of a missing signature or other statutory requirement. Mishandled ballots do not necessarily impair the ability of the Board to determine the intent or will of the voter. McCready’s lawyers, who represented Roy Cooper in 2016, argued that mishandled ballots should still be counted if the ballot reflected the voter’s true intent, and they are correct.
There have been some sensational claims by those associated with the McCready campaign, those investigating claims relevant to Bladen County, and Dan McCready himself. For example, Wake County DA Lorrin Freeman stated that over a thousand of absentee ballots may have been destroyed and has since failed to produce any evidence of that comment. One affidavit stated that McCrae Dowless “was seen holding a large number of absentee ballots” and estimated the number at 800. The sheer size and weight of 800 ballots means Dowless is a man of incredible strength or is a complete fabrication. McCready himself stated that Harris’ campaign stole hundreds if not thousands of votes. He has failed to produce any evidence to support this claim.
Many of the affidavits submitted on behalf of the McCready campaign rely solely on hearsay. The Chairman of the Bladen County Democrat Party Ben Snyder claimed “he heard Dowless was ‘intentionally losing voters’ absentee ballots.” Another affidavit, filed by Dwight Sheppard, states “he overheard people at the Bethel precinct say that Dowless would get a $40,000 bonus from the Mark Harris campaign.” The allegations are stated in such a way that perjury would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove.
As court rulings have found, “An election or referendum result will not be disturbed for irregularities absent a showing that the irregularities are sufficient to alter the result.” Simply put, anomalies are not a valid reason to overturn an election because they undoubtedly occur in nearly every election. There must be an extremely high bar to disenfranchise the citizens who participated in a legal voting process. If our standard is simply the statement that an anomaly occurred, it is a slippery slope that will erode trust in our ability to administer elections.
The rumors that riddle the shoddy affidavits filed by the McCready campaign are not evidence; They are hearsay. The headline-grabbing claims made by those associated with the NCDP and McCready campaign have not panned out. No protest was filed with Bladen County or the state. To come full circle, the evidence is what must be our standard and an extremely high bar must be set to overturn an election and the citizens who voted legally. In 2016, the State Board dismissed a protest because it would not affect the outcome. That is the standard we must adhere to.
Here are some other points we urge you to remember when covering or watching this event:
Our system can only work if elections mean something and 280,000+ legal ballots are at issue here. In a special election, only a fraction of these people would vote. Several hundred thousand voters would lose their voice and believe their votes did not matter. They would be right. We don’t throw them out without a damn good reason. The burden is on McCready to prove absent the irregularities he likely would have won the race. The burden is not on Mr. Harris or the NCGOP to prove the election system is perfect. It is not, never has been, and never will be.
There has been much discussion about a provision in the law regarding a “tainted” election to question its “fundamental fairness.” This provision in the law is to cover major disruption in our voting systems, natural disasters, or a major public safety issue that closes polling places and makes voting nearly impossible. This is not a provision in the law to rerun elections because some allegedly bad things happened. If all evidence shows Harris won the race despite any documented problems, then the election contest is not tainted. Unproven rumor, hearsay, and innuendo does not taint an election.
Statistics are not necessarily evidence:
There are many valid reasons why a slightly higher percentage of absentee ballots may not have been returned in Bladen and Robeson Counties. This area was uniquely impacted by the hurricane. Both sides were actively engaged in absentee ballot drives. A Democrat-aligned outside group targeted unreliable Democrat voters with an aggressive absentee ballot request drive. It is not surprising that many of these unreliable voters simply did not vote, even if they received a ballot.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections sent a letter ONLY to Bladen County voters, warning them of absentee ballot efforts. This likely effected people returning ballots. Because this ONLY happened in Bladen County, it renders nearly all statistical analyses questionable. As is the fundamental rule with statistics, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.
McCready knows the math isn’t there for him:
The math submitted in the brief filed by McCready’s lawyers is that of pipe dreams. They frequently refer to disputed affidavits containing hearsay to back up their statistics, e.g. Lutz and Snyder, while grudgingly admitting they have no idea how many ballots were affected of the 1364 ABM votes. Additionally, of the 1169 absentee ballot requests that went unreturned, just to tie Congressman-Elect Harris, would require McCready to win a staggering 77 percent of these votes, which is nearly 57 percent more than what he achieved overall. Based on voter registration statistics in Bladen and Robeson, McCready would have to win every Democrat vote and more than half of all unaffiliated in those areas, and that is assuming 1) the ballot requests are similar to ideological voter registration statistics, and 2) that every Democrat is voting with him. The math isn’t there for McCready. He knows it and his lawyers know it, and it’s why their brief is shoddy at best. […]”