N.C. GOP Leader Open To New Election As Fraud Investigation Continues



Stone Stephens

Since the election, numerous voters have claimed that their uncompleted ballots were collected and turned over to North Carolina politician Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr.

In recent days, amid mounting allegations of a ballot-harvesting operation, state Republicans have shifted their rhetoric.

A leader of the North Carolina Republican Party says the organization would be open to a new election if an investigation were to find a high likelihood that wrongdoing swayed the state's unresolved congressional race.

It's "bigger than that one seat", she said, but about the "integrity of elections".

Harris, a Baptist minister who ousted Rep. Robert Pittenger in a Republican primary this year, leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

"It's expensive and logistically tough to have a new election in the 9th District", Steve Stone said. But state election officials have refused to certify the results while looking at potential absentee ballot irregularities in at least two counties. The state Board of Elections and the Wake County District Attorney have launched investigations. But Democrats believed they had a good change to flip it with McCready, who ran as a centrist, touting "country over party" and pledging not to vote for Democrat Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker.

If the board concludes that the irregularities tainted those results, it could toss them and call for a new election.

"This is amusing business on the part of Democrats, in part to try and steal this race", Woodhouse told NPR on Monday. He was active in Bladen County in the eastern part of the district.

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Dowless worked for Red Dome Group, a GOP political consulting firm that Harris paid more than $400,000.

NPR reached Dowless by phone on Thursday. "I'm just not giving any comment at this time", he told reporters and photographers in front of his house in Bladenboro, adding, "No disrespect to anybody".

The controversy raised the possibility that the state's Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement could call for a new election.

Then J. Michael Bitzer, a politics professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, published an analysis that found jarring anomalies, particularly in Bladen County, which has a large black population, and Robeson County, which has one of the largest Native-American populations on the East Coast.

The board released documents on Wednesday that shed light on the extent of Dowless' efforts. If true, the charges sharply contrast with those that Republicans have used to justify ballot restrictions around the country, said Myrna Perez, a voting-rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school. Harris, the Republican candidate, won more than 60 percent of the absentee vote. "That's why today, I withdraw my concession to Mark Harris, who has remained completely silent". But we do know enough.

"If somebody said something about the absentee ballots, it is just very possible that it didn't register with us", Woodhouse said.

The elections board is investigating, said spokesman Patrick Gannon.

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