Feb 21, 2019

North Carolina board calls for new election in disputed House race

North Carolina’s 9th district Republican candidate at a campaign rally last year.

North Carolina’s 9th district Republican candidate at a campaign rally last year. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Thursday voted to call a new election for the state's 9th congressional district amid evidence of ballot-tampering.

Why it matters: This comes days after the board said its investigation found evidence that a political operative working on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris had coordinated an "unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme," including efforts of a cover-up.

The backdrop: Harris told the board moments before its unanimous ruling to order a new election to settle the country’s last unresolved midterm House race — a sharp reversal from his previous calls and a failed court challenge last month for election officials to certify him. It did not immediately set a date.

  • Harris holds an unofficial 905-vote lead over his Democratic opponent, but the board had declined to certify him as a winner last year due to claims of "numerous" absentee voting irregularities and later launched a probe.

Also on Thursday, the board's fourth day of hearings into voting irregularities, Harris told the five-member panel he had no knowledge of any election fraud. But he did acknowledge that he ignored warnings from his son about the Republican operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless.

  • John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in Raleigh, said under oath Wednesday that he had expressed misgivings about Dowless to his father in 2017 after analyzing absentee-ballot returns in 9th district in 2016. The elder Harris had narrowly lost the GOP primary and Dowless worked for the another Republican candidate.
  • The younger Harris' testimony contradicted his father's claim last month that he never heard any red flags about Dowless before hiring him.

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