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A woman inserts her ballot into the machine. Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

The first major election fraud case in a long time is unfolding in North Carolina, but it's far different than the threat hyped up by Republicans, and it threatens to force a new election.

The latest: Republican Mark Harris holds an unofficial 905-vote lead over his Democratic opponent Dan McCready in North Carolina's 9th congressional district. North Carolina's state elections board won't certify the results, citing "claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail ballots."

Between the lines: This is different than Republican warnings about voter fraud, which baselessly claim voters are being illegally brought to the polls to vote multiple times or in places they don't reside.

Driving the news:

  • Democrats in the House are threatening not to seat Harris: Nancy Pelosi said they "could take the 'extraordinary step' of calling for a new election if the winner isn’t clear," the AP reported today.
  • North Carolina Republicans are open to a new election if fraud is proven to have affected the results, its executive director said today.

Details:

  • Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for Harris' campaign as a contractor, is reportedly at the center of the probe.
  • He has been accused of collecting and filling out hundreds of voters’ absentee ballots — which is illegal in the state. North Carolina mandates all absentee ballot envelopes must be signed by two witnesses and dropped off by voters or their close relatives.
  • Dowless has denied any wrongdoing, though the AP reports that Bladen County's elections board has recorded that he submitted over 500 ballots.

The bottom line: President Trump — who spent years baselessly claiming Democrats were behind massive voter fraud and created a voter fraud task force at the White House — has yet to comment on North Carolina.

Go deeper: North Carolina House race in doubt over claims of electoral fraud

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai detained on fraud charge

An activist holds a placard highlighting China's Tiananmen Square massacre as pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong in November. Photo: Isaac Wong/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is being detained until an April court hearing after the pro-democracy supporter was charged Thursday with fraud, per his Apple Daily news outlet.

Why it matters: The 72-year-old's arrest and denial of bail is another blow for the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony amid concerns about a fresh crackdown on activists.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inhofe loudly sets Trump straight on defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks with reporters in the Capitol last month. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senator Jim Inhofe told President Trump today he'll likely fail to get two big wishes in pending defense spending legislation, bellowing into his cellphone: "This is the only chance to get our bill passed," a source who overheard part of their conversation tells Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are ready to test whether Trump's threats of vetoing the bill, which has passed every year for more than half a century, are empty.

Conspiracy theories blow back on Trump's White House

Sidney Powell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

President Trump has rarely met a conspiracy theory he doesn't like, but he and other Republicans now worry the wild tales told by lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood may cost them in Georgia's Senate special elections.

Why it matters: The two are telling Georgians not to vote for Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because of a bizarre, baseless and potentially self-defeating theory: It's not worth voting because the Chinese Communist Party has rigged the voting machines.