Democrat withdraws concession in scandalous North Carolina race

North Carolina candidate paid $428k to consulting firm linked to alleged ballot tampering
State officials investigate potential election fraud in North Carolina; emergency hearing possible

09 December, 2018

"If they can say with a strong degree of certainty that the outcome of the race was changed or there is a substantial likelihood that it could have been, the law requires that there be a new election, and we would not oppose", said Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, in an interview with NPR.

The claims proved untrue.

If the board concludes that the irregularities tainted those results, it could toss them and call for a new election. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes, but results are not certified.

The man at the center of an election fraud investigation in a North Carolina congressional race turned in almost half of the requests for absentee ballots in a single county, records released Tuesday by the state's elections board show.

Jamie Bowers, a spokesman for outgoing District 9 incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger, said he isn't sure if House leaders can chose a victor in the case of an uncertified race. It would mean "this was fraud perpetrated upon voters", she said, "not fraud perpetrated by voters". "This is about undermining the integrity of our elections".

"It's a rigged system", President Trump said.

An operative working on behalf of Harris' campaign is the focus of an investigation by state election officials and law enforcement. California is one state that allows anyone - including political operatives - to collect and turn in a ballot for a voter. In two counties, Harris won a strangely large margin of absentee ballot votes.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in MI and Wisconsin are fighting rearguard actions after the party lost control of top offices in November.

"This has shaken us to the core", he said.

They included an identification measure thrown out by the federal courts because, among other reasons, lawmakers crafted it after studying how to suppress minority voting.

Fighting voter fraud has been a Republican rallying cry for years.

Most of the unreturned ballots belonged to African-American and Native American voters, the Observer reported.

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On Friday, the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement called for an evidentiary hearing by December 21 to consider "claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities" during the campaign, particularly over absentee ballot collection.

The rout included several seats that had been held by Republicans in the former GOP stronghold of Orange County, where more than 250,000 mail-in ballots were turned in on Election Day. McCready won Robeson County by 17,003 votes to Harris' 12,543 and Libertarian candidate Jeff Scott's 757. If accurate, those results would mean every unaffiliated absentee voter, as well as some Democrats, went for the Republican.

The State Board of Elections is investigating whether Dowless had a role in manipulating or even handling absentee ballots.

"I have been studying Southern politics for 30 years and North Carolina politics for 15, and I have never seen anything like that", Bitzer said.

At the center of this is convicted felon L. McCrae Dowless, who was a consultant to the Harris campaign and something of an expert on absentee voting. He didn't return an email seeking comment. Harris said last week that his victory should be finalized while the board investigated. The board will work with the prosecutor, he said.

The 9th Congressional District has been represented by a Republican in Washington for more than five decades. Dowless worked as a contractor for Harris' chief strategist in the campaign, Harris campaign lawyer John Branch confirmed Tuesday. "Taking possession of one ballot or a thousand ballots is a felony".

At issue is who can handle completed ballots. "That would also be illegal in every state".

When the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement met November 27, it was supposed to sign off on the results of about 1,300 state and local elections, as it usually does shortly after Election Day.

In Congress, Democrats are considering their options.

Amid the developments, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the House "retains the right to decide who is seated" and could take the "extraordinary step" of calling for a new election if the victor isn't clear. The intent was to give persons from groups unlikely to show up at the polls the chance to vote by mail.

"There's reason to doubt the capacity of the State Board of Elections", state Sen.

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