Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

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

An investigation into North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District 2018 election has found a "coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme" in two counties carried out by a political operative hired by the Republican candidate, the state’s elections board executive director revealed Monday at a hearing.

Why it matters: The evidentiary hearing may last for two days and it could prompt the five-member election board to certify the November results or order a new election in the district if there’s strong evidence that ballot-tampering was widespread enough to affect the outcome of the race. Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders in Washington had signaled that they could launch their own inquiry, depending on the outcome of hearing.

The backstory: Fraud allegations have roiled the country’s last unresolved midterm House race after the election board in late November declined to certify Republican candidate Mark Harris, who holds an unofficial 905-vote lead over his Democratic opponent Dan McCready, as the winner. The board cited claims of "numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities" with the collection of absentee ballots in breach of state election law.

What we've learned from Monday's hearing:

  • After a months-long probe into election irregularities, elections board director Kim Strach said the Republican operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, hired workers and paid each $150.00 per 50 absentee ballot request forms, and another $125.00 for every 50 absentee ballots collected.
  • There’s evidence that workers directly provided Dowless with ballots from Bladen and Robeson counties in order to get paid, and instructed them to falsely sign as witnesses. [It’s illegal in the state for anyone other than close relative to handle a voter’s absentee ballot.]
  • More than 1,000 ballots from both counties were affected.
  • Investigators found that Dowless completed and mailed in incomplete or blank ballots from his office and home, and he took several steps to conceal the fraud. These include using the same color ink as voters to forged witness signatures and instructed workers to deliver ballots in small batches to the post office closest to the voter.
  • Lisa Britt, who said she was hired by Dowless, testified that she collected unsealed ballots, and in some cases, filled them out in favor of Republicans in down-ballot local races.

The big picture: The allegations against Harris campaign run counter to the baseless claims of rampant voter fraud by Democrats often trumpeted by President Trump and other Republican officials. National Republicans have been silent on the case — undercutting their own purported hardline stance on election fraud — while Harris and his allies are urging the state to certify him as the winner.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!