CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – Both Democratic and Republican leaders in North Carolina are calling for a new election, including a new primary, as allegations of ballot fraud shroud the outcome of the still uncertified 9th Congressional District race.
Republican Mark Harris appeared to be winning the general election against Democrat Dan McCready by a mere 905 votes in the 9th District, but North Carolina’s elections board twice refused to certify the winner as rural Bladen County became riddled with fraud allegations involving absentee mail-in ballots.
At the center of an ongoing fraud probe, officials say, is McCrae Dowless, an operative for Harris and the Red Dome Group who is accused of hiring people to collect unsealed ballots door-to-door in Bladen County. This practice is illegal in North Carolina and could be considered ballot tampering.
Last week, the North Carolina State Board of Elections named Dowless as “a person of interest in connection with an alleged absentee ballot operation in the congressional district.”
Now a witness in Bladen County claims early voting tallies were leaked to people who were not election officials prior to Election Day.
North Carolina GOP Chair Robin Hayes made the call for a new election after the state’s Democratic Party released an affidavit from a precinct worker in the county, Agnes Willis, who alleged that early votes were tallied prior to last month’s election and shown to inappropriate parties.
“It is prohibited to run a tally and show that to anyone who is not a precinct judge. It is possible that it could have been shown to someone in the Mark Harris campaign,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said in a phone interview late Wednesday.
Common Cause, a government watchdog group, has allies in Bladen County and neighboring Robeson County who are monitoring the situation, he said.
North Carolina Republicans said on Tuesday that a new election would be needed if investigators can verify the claim of leaked early voting numbers.
“We are pretty certain that happened,” North Carolina GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse told reporters, “and if it is confirmed, a new election is appropriate.”
Legislators in North Carolina decided Wednesday to start completely over with a new primary election in the 9th District if allegations of absentee ballot tampering and early vote tally leaks hold true, approving a measure that also holds the elections board accountable for investigating possible ballot-harvesting and providing absentee ballot data for the past five years.
Phillips said funding should be increased to allow for more local board of elections investigators.
“A new election is needed, back to the primaries, because it appears that too was tainted with absentee ballot fraud allegations. There are legitimate questions surrounding that,” Phillips said.
The decision to hold new elections is in the hands of the bipartisan state board of elections, which recently voted 9-0 not to certify the initial result. The board – comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans and one Independent – is expected to hold an evidentiary hearing by Dec.21.
Delores Hurt, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg chapter of the League of Women Voters, said she is working with her nonpartisan organization to fight unfair election practices.
“Personally, I was disheartened to learn about what we had been going through in the 9th district,” she told Courthouse News. “This goes against everything we stand for.”
Hurt said the national publicity garnered by issues in the 9th District could lead to a greater and more passionate turnout from both parties if a new election is held.