The southern border of North Carolina have been the epicenter of an unfolding investigation into potential election fraud committed on behalf of — and funded by — Republicans running in statewide and federal elections in the 9th district.
Much of the focus has been on Bladen County, where Soil and Water Conservation District vice chair Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. reportedly paid multiple people to illegally collect voters’ absentee ballots and deliver them to him, rather than the local board of elections.
But an analysis of absentee ballots cast in neighboring Robeson County suggests that the effort to interfere with the midterm election was more extensive than previously thought.
According to CNN, four people in Robeson County are listed as witnesses on dozens of absentee ballots. One individual’s name appeared on at least 57 ballot envelopes, a whopping nine percent of all absentee ballots cast in the county. A second woman signed 28 other envelopes in Robeson county, as well as 42 others in Bladen county. She is also the daughter of Dowless’s ex-wife.
On Thursday afternoon, Democratic candidate Dan McCready announced he was withdrawing his concession, and blasted his Republican opponent for obfuscating and trying to pressure the state board of elections to certify the results.
“I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines to come home to North Carolina and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote,” he said in a widely shared Tweet.
I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines to come home to NC and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote. Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when. pic.twitter.com/2hcT00DVhQ
— Dan McCready for NC (@McCreadyForNC) December 6, 2018
Despite their initial indignation over a unanimous decision by the bipartisan North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement not to certify the election for Republican Mark Harris, the state GOP has since backtracked, suggesting that if significant evidence were presented that pointed to fraud, they would not oppose calls for a new election.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the state party was warned well before November’s general election about the possibility of widespread fraud. The campaign of outgoing Rep. Robert Pittinger (R-NC), who lost to Harris in the GOP primary last spring, is said to have alerted the state party’s executive director about possible fraud, after an astounding 96 percent of the absentee vote in Bladen county went in favor of the challenger. Those warnings were largely ignored.
Nationwide, Republicans — who often fabricate election fraud controversies out of whole cloth as an excuse to disenfranchise minority, low-income, and elderly voters — have been largely silent on the drama in North Carolina.
One exception is the patron saint of voter suppression, failed Kansas Republican Kris Kobach. “Based on what I have read, I am very concerned that voter fraud did occur,” he told the Washington Post, falsely. There are no allegations of voter fraud in the 9th congressional district, only election fraud. They are not the same thing.
Last week, the North Carolina Board of Elections — which is comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent commissioner — voted 7-2 in favor of holding an evidentiary hearing in mid-December. If enough evidence is presented, the board could call for an entirely new election. Democrats in Congress, including minority leader and presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday said that the chamber could take the extraordinary step of refusing to seat Harris until the case is fully resolved.