Panel sets January hearing on fraud in North Carolina U.S. House race

Insuring that North Carolina's Ninth District seat will be vacant when the 116th Congress convenes in January, the North Carolina state elections board on Friday set a hearing for January 11, 2019, where officials will receive evidence on election irregularities focused on absentee ballot fraud which seemingly benefited Republican Mark Harris.

"State investigators are awaiting additional documents from parties subpoenaed in this matter and finalizing the investigation prior to the hearing," the State Board of Elections and Ethics said in a statement.

Originally, the board had planned a hearing before December 21.

In an interview with WBTV on Friday, Harris denied knowing that McRae Dowless - hired to run an absentee ballot operation in Bladen County - was doing anything which was illegal.

"No, absolutely not," Harris said in his first interview since allegations of election fraud began to surface after the November elections.

"In the Marines, I learned what it means to fight for our democracy," tweeted Democrat Dan McCready, who lost to Harris by 905 votes. "I never imagined I would watch our democracy come under attack right here at home," McCready added.

It's not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will also investigate the possible fraud in the Ninth District race, which possibly involved ballot fraud and discarded ballots.

The North Carolina board could still order a new election, which may involve a new primary as well, as some Republicans would like to get Harris out of the race for the seat in Congress, worried that he will be too tainted by the charges of election fraud.

The decision to extend the investigation of any election fraud into 2019 means that the U.S. House will start the 116th Congress with Democrats holding a 235-199 edge in the House - with the one vacancy from North Carolina.

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