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After Nearly Three Months, 9th District Hearing Begins Monday

Demcorat Dan McCready and Republican Harris Mark Harris debated Wednesday night in the 9th Congressional District race.
Steve Harrison

The North Carolina Board of Elections will hold its long-awaited public evidentiary hearing into possible fraud in the 9th Congressional District race Monday morning in Raleigh.

The hearing, which begins at 10 a.m., is expected to last at least two days but could stretch until Wednesday.

After hearing from its own investigators, as well as witnesses and presentations from the Mark Harris and Dan McCready campaigns, the five-member board will then consider what to do next.

One option is to certify Republican Mark Harris as the winner in the race. He's ahead of Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. That requires three votes.

The board could also vote to have a new election, but that would take four votes. That means at least one Republican would have to join the three Democrats in calling for an election.

[Related Content: FAQ City: Understanding The 9th Congressional District Race]

New elections board chair Robert Cordle of Charlotte said he expects the board to make a decision — or attempt to reach one — immediately after the hearing is over.

The hearing will begin with elections investigators discussing their findings from the 9th District about possible absentee by mail fraud. The state will also likely have witnesses from Bladen and Robeson counties, the two counties at the heart of the probe.

Attorneys from the Harris and McCready campaigns will be able to cross-examine the state's witnesses.

After that, the two campaigns will be able to call their own witnesses. The Harris campaign has submitted 25 names to the state board. That includes Harris, as well as McCrae Dowless, the political operative at the heart of the investigation.

There are also people on the list who worked for Dowless, and some Bladen politicians like Ray Britt, a county commissioner. Harris said he hired Dowless in part because local politicians like Britt vouched for him.

The Harris campaign has also called McCready as a witness.

Harris attorney David Freedman said he wants to question McCready about statements the candidate has made about Harris. In a January interview with WBTV, McCready said:

"This is for the State Board to decide — I think there are two options here. Either [Harris] knew what was going on, which I don't know how you wouldn't, and he should be in jail... or he turned a blind eye to fraud. He built a culture of corruption that represents the worst in our politics."

Freedman said he wants to ask McCready about that comment.

"He’s been very specific about saying Mark Harris should be in jail," Freedman said. "And if he’s going to be making comments like that, I’d like to know what information he has to base that on."

Freedman said he has seen no evidence of ballots being destroyed or thrown away. The Harris campaign has said that Harris should be certified the winner in the race since his 905-vote lead is more than the absentee mail ballots he received in both Bladen and Robeson counties.

McCready’s attorneys have submitted 56 names, including two of the state’s top Republicans – Dallas Woodhouse and Robin Hayes. Woodhouse is the executive director of the state GOP and Hayes is the chairman.

They have also listed Harris and Dowless.

In a filing before the hearing, McCready's lawyers said an elections board stalemate is a real possibility. In that case, it said the 9th District stalemate should be sent to the Democratically controlled U.S. House to decide what to do.