Americans might recall from their time in High School that the U.S. House of Representatives is made up of 435 members. But when the new Congress was seated in January after the 2018 midterm elections, only 434 representatives were there to take the oath of office.
That’s because the North Carolina Board of Elections – comprised equally of Democratic and Republican officials – refused to certify the results of the House race in the state’s Ninth District following the emergence of evidence that the apparent winner – Republican Mark Harris – had used a voter fraud scheme to taint absentee ballots in his favor.
Now, after three days of dramatic hearings this week, state officials have declared there will be a new election, leaving the district unrepresented for at least several more months.
Harris, who appeared to win the initial election in November by only 905 votes, conceded on Thursday that a new election would be appropriate after urging officials for months to certify his victory.
— The News & Observer (@newsobserver) February 20, 2019
“It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the Ninth District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” the candidate said while testifying.
It’s unclear at this time if Harris intends to – or will be allowed to – compete in the district’s new election. No official date for the election has been yet been set either.
The controversy surrounding the election centers around a figure named L. McCrae Dowless Jr., a campaign contractor employed by the Harris campaign.
In the aftermath of November’s elections, multiple witnesses came forward and said Dowless paid them to collect absentee ballots from voters – a felony under North Carolina law.
Other witnesses, several of whom testified in hearings this week, said Dowless or his associates came to their house and collected their ballots, some of which were not sealed, leaving them vulnerable to tampering.
On Wednesday, Harris’ son, John, testified that he repeatedly warned his father that Dowless was a “shady” character and that he suspected him of using illegal tactics involving absentee ballots in prior elections.
Harris, who was visibly emotional during his son’s testimony, insists that he was not aware of Dowless conduct during the campaign.
Dowless refused to testify in the hearings, and at this point has not been charged with any crimes in connection with the election.
More on the Subject
A federal court in October issued a temporary restraining order blocking election officials in Georgia from throwing out the absentee ballots of voters with supposedly mismatched information.
The decision was in response to two lawsuits brought by voting rights advocates who argued the policy was politically motivated and would result in potentially thousands of voters having their ballots improperly rejected.
The lawsuits were filed after it was revealed earlier that month that Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office placed tens of thousands of voter registration applications on hold and purged the records of voters whose records contained minor clerical errors or mismatched information.