In the aftermath of a bizarre race that still has yet to be called, the North Carolina Board of Elections has voted unanimously for a new election to be held in the state’s ninth district after an investigation uncovered potential voter fraud, CNBC reports.
It’s been three months since the 2018 midterm elections, but this long and winding North Carolina case has really turned things upside down, and Republican Sen. Mark Harris stands accused of alleged voter fraud as a result.
What’s being called into question is whether an operative hired by Harris engaged in voting irregularities during last fall’s election, USA Today reports. And Harris and Democrat Dan McCready are still fighting to represent the state’s 9th Congressional District, three months later.
At the hearing Thursday, investigators detailed an “unlawful,” “coordinated” plot to tamper with absentee ballots, making this one of the most unusual election fraud cases in recent memory, Vox reports.
During the four-day hearing, investigators revealed evidence that indicating fraud, as well as an attempt to conceal the evidence from state investigators. Harris has now told the state election board that a new election should be called. And in an odd twist, testimony from Harris’s son, John Harris, a U.S. assistant attorney in North Carolina, could be his father’s undoing.
On Wednesday, John Harris testified that he warned his father about questionable practices being used by the operative, identified as Leslie McCrae Dowless. He has refused to testify.
Harris wiped away tears as his son testified.
Investigators allege Dowless conducted a scheme to tamper with absentee ballots by unlawfully collecting them and providing false witness among other things. Employees who worked with Dowless have corroborated this, officials say.
And investigators produced even more damning evidence, provided by Harris’ campaign. That evidence included previously undisclosed contacts between Harris and Dowless. Attorneys for the embattled candidate said they misunderstood the investigation’s request.
But the testimony provided by Harris’s son and Andy Yates, a political consultant for Harris’s team was pretty remarkable. Both have insisted Harris was unaware of what Dowless was up to and was too trusting. However, John Harris said he warned his father about Dowless’s past on absentee ballots — including the possibility that some of his actions may have been illegal, but Harris ignored this.
In a contrite statement, Harris noted he had discussed the situation with his younger son Matthew Harris:
“It’s been brought to my attention that I talked to my son, my younger son Matthew that I referenced earlier, two nights ago about the fact that I did not think John’s emails would be part of this hearing. Obviously, I was incorrect in my recollection and I wholeheartedly apologize to this board.”
The race has received national attention because Harris, who squeaked by with 905 votes, claimed victory and McCready conceded. But things went topsy-turvy after voter fraud charges emerged. As a result, the State Board of Elections didn’t certify the election.
So Harris himself has called for a new election.
“Neither I nor any of the leadership of my campaign were aware of or condone the improper activities that have been testified to in this hearing,” he said in the statement. “Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days, I believe the new election should be called. It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th district seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”
But this case is just one of many instances of voter fraud and voter suppression and that has spurred Democrats and civil rights groups to action. Election officials in Georgia are being scrutinized for potentially Black votes and civil rights organizations fought a plan to close polling sites in a Georgia county that has a largely Black population.
The hearing is expected to conclude this week.
Check out the video of when Harris gave up an owned up below:
Featured image screen capture from the video above