On the fourth day of hearings by the North Carolina Board of Elections, Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris surprised many by calling for a new election in the state’s ninth congressional district. For months, election officials in the state have gathered mounting evidence of election fraud committed on behalf of Harris’s 2018 campaign.
Hours prior, Harris again pleaded ignorance to an alleged absentee ballot scheme perpetrated by McCrae Dowless, a Republican campaign operative with a history of fraud who was hired by the Harris campaign last year. But on Wednesday, the board was presented several new pieces of evidence, including correspondence between Harris and his adult son, in which the elder Harris was explicitly warned about Dowless’ well-documented history of illegally tampering with elections. Harris himself referred to Dowless’ “absentee ballot program” in a text message sent more than a year before Election Day.
The abrupt reversal puts an end to Harris’ efforts to have the Board of Elections certify him the winner after he finished Election Day ahead of Democratic challenger Pat McCready by just 905 votes.
Minutes after Harris’ statement, all five members of the Board of Elections voted in favor of a new election in the ninth district.
This will be the first redo congressional election in over 40 years.
— Ally Mutnick (@allymutnick) February 21, 2019
The Republican-controlled state legislature passed a bill late last year that mandates a new primary in the event the Board of Elections calls for a new vote. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill for unrelated reasons, but Republicans mustered enough support to overrule his veto. It will fall to the board to set the timeline for these new elections.
The ongoing hearing focused specifically on the November general election, but there is perhaps even more compelling evidence that Harris relied on the same absentee ballot scheme to unseat former Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary last year. Notably, in a statement he read during the hearing today, Harris went out of his way to specify that it was the general election that was in dispute.
“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called. It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the ninth district seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” he said.
Harris’s statement came in lieu of any further testimony before the Board of Elections. Citing a recent spate of health-related issues, he acknowledged it was a mistake to agree to testify given the “rigors” of the hearing process.