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After Opening Door To New Election, NC GOP Says Harris Should Be Certified

Mark Harris for Congress
The NC Republican Party said Monday the State Board of Elections decision to postpone a public hearing on allegations of fraud until Jan. 11 is "totally unacceptable." The GOP wants Republican Mark Harris to be certified as the winner.

The North Carolina Republican Party says it's "totally unacceptable" that the State Board of Elections has postponed a hearing on allegations of fraud in the 9th Congressional District until Jan. 11.

The board had planned to hold a hearing on the 9th district on Friday, and had said it was mindful that the new Congress will be sworn in Jan. 3.

But the board – which is investigating political operative McCrae Dowless and the Mark Harris campaign – have pushed that hearing back.

“This latest delay by the board of elections is unacceptable,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the NC Republican Party. “You can not deny the people of the 9th congressional district a member of Congress when the new congressional term starts without presenting one iota of public evidence that the race was turned or that illegal behavior actually occurred.”

The state Republican Party released a resolution Monday calling for Harris to be declared the winner and the race certified unless there is substantial evidence of fraud that would have likely changed the outcome of the race. Harris is leading Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

The state board is investigating possible fraud stemming from absentee mail ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties.

The response to the fraud allegations from state Republicans has shifted since the state board declined to certify the race nearly three weeks ago.

Initially, Woodhouse said the board must certify the winner because there weren’t enough absentee mail votes in question to change the outcome.

Woodhouse then said a new election could be held if it was shown that operatives had destroyed or altered ballots. He said that having people collect or “harvest” absentee mail votes – which is illegal – wouldn’t have been enough to call for a new election.

A week ago, the state board released a report showing that early vote totals from Bladen County had been tabulated on the weekend before the election, which is against the law. Those results aren’t supposed to be counted until election day.

After that revelation, Woodhouse said that a new election might be necessary because having the early vote totals in advance could give one campaign an advantage.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly last week passed a bill that would require new party primaries if the state Board of Elections votes to hold a new general election.

The unusual absentee mail votes from Bladen County in the November election mirrored results from the Republican primary, when Harris narrowly defeated Congressman Robert Pittenger.

The GOP's resolution released Monday says that if the early release of early vote totals  “resulted in a substantial likelihood of changing the outcome of the race, then a new election is required.”

It went on: “The heavy hand of government should never interfere with the integrity of our electoral system.”

“If those totals were leaked by the state in a way that could affect the race then a new election might be necessary,” Woodhouse said. “But we haven’t seen that.”

On Friday, Harris gave an interview to WBTV, in which he said that state Republican leaders had not “circled the wagons” around him as Democrats had around McCready.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.