As it becomes harder and harder to maintain the position that the election results in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district are legitimate, Republicans in the state have retreated to a more palatable barricade: they would be amenable to a new election if an investigation turned up evidence of fraud.
It’s a curious position to take, given the amount of evidence already uncovered: a small handful of names acted as witnesses for dozens of absentee ballots. Multiple people have said they were paid to collect scores of absentee ballots and deliver them to a GOP operative. That alone is a violation of state law, and unimpeachable evidence of election fraud.
But Republicans have made painstaking efforts to insert a very crucial caveat in their statements supporting the possibility of a new election. Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP, laid it out for the New York Times on Thursday (emphasis added).
“[The North Carolina Board of Elections] should lay out their cards so everyone knows fact from fiction and fact from innuendo,” he told the paper. “If they can state there was a substantial likelihood that the race could have been altered, then we would not oppose a new election.”
On Friday afternoon, Republican candidate Mark Harris himself echoed that message via Twitter. Again, emphasis added.
“If this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results,”
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNC9) December 7, 2018
The salient phrase is this: “could have changed the outcome of the election.”
What Republicans have so far failed to clarify is how much evidence they will insist upon before they cooperate with any decision to call a new election. Before the current imbroglio erupted late last month, Harris had a lead over Democratic challenger Dan McCready of 905 votes. In issuing forceful condemnations of the state board of elections for failing to certify the results, Harris’ campaign and the state party made a point to note that there were not enough allegations of election fraud to overcome a 905-vote margin. There argument, essentially: yes we may have funded an unprecedented case of election fraud, but there are not 905 pieces of evidence to overcome the current margin anyway.
“However the State Board of Elections needs to hold a public hearing sooner than 12/21 and lay out the facts. Unless they have strong evidence the outcome of the race was changed or there was a substantial likelihood the race could have been changed…” (2/3) #ncpol #nc09
— NCGOP (@NCGOP) December 4, 2018
It is a virtual certainty that investigators will be unable to point to 905 ballots and say definitively that they were all the product of fraud. And no honest broker would issue a statement claiming to know what a theoretical outcome would have been. The very presence of fraud means this was not a clean election, and it’s therefore impossible to know what the result could have been.
If Republicans are truly committed to ensuring the results of the election are fair and accurate, there is more than enough evidence currently in hand to warrant a new election, no caveats required.