N.C. GOP leader open to new House elec­tion if fraud found

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Gary D. Robert­son and Jonathan Drew

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Repub­li­can Party would sup­port a new elec­tion in the state’s un­re­solved con­gres­sional race if an in­ves­ti­ga­tion shows that wrong­do­ing swayed its out­come, its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor said Thurs­day, soft­en­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s stance as al­le­ga­tions of ab­sen­tee bal­lot fraud mount.

Amid the de­vel­op­ments, U.S. House Demo­cratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said the House “re­tains the right to de­cide who is seated” and could take the “ex­tra­or­di­nary step” of call­ing for a new elec­tion if the win­ner isn’t clear.

Un­of­fi­cial to­tals have Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris lead­ing Demo­crat Dan McCready by 905 votes. But the state elec­tions board re­fused to cer­tify the re­sults last week be­cause of al­le­ga­tions of “ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and con­certed fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties” in­volv­ing mail-in bal­lots in the district. The board is meet­ing later this month to hear ev­i­dence, but it’s un­clear whether the race will be set­tled then.

North Carolina GOP Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Dal­las Wood­house texted a state­ment to The As­so­ci­ated Press say­ing in a state­ment that the GOP would back a new elec­tion if the state’s elec­tions board were to show that ab­sen­tee bal­lot is­sues changed the out­come of the 9th Con­gres­sional District race.

“If they can show a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood it could have changed the race then we fully would sup­port a new elec­tion,” he said.

How­ever, he said that if the in­ves­ti­ga­tion shows that the out­come would not have been changed, Repub­li­can can­di­date Har­ris should be cer­ti­fied the win­ner.

En­ter­tain­ing the idea of a new elec­tion rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant change from last Thurs­day, when state GOP Chair­man Robin Hayes is­sued a state­ment say­ing: “Democrats are throw­ing ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the kitchen sink, at the wall to try and steal an elec­tion.” On Sun­day, Hayes said there weren’t enough ques­tioned bal­lots to change the race’s out­come, and the next day he ac­cused a Demo­cratic mem­ber of the state board of “score-set­tling.”

At is­sue is who can han­dle com­pleted bal­lots. North Carolina law al­lows only a fam­ily mem­ber or le­gal guardian to drop off ab­sen­tee bal­lots for a voter.

In af­fi­davits of­fered by the state Demo­cratic Party, some Bladen County vot­ers have de­scribed that peo­ple came to their homes to col­lect their ab­sen­tee bal­lots, whether or not they had been fully com­pleted or sealed in an en­ve­lope to keep them from be­ing al­tered.

The rev­e­la­tions and en­su­ing na­tional news cov­er­age have put pres­sure on Repub­li­cans and at­tracted at­ten­tion from top Democrats.

Pelosi, who’s nom­i­nated to be­come House speaker when Democrats take con­trol in Jan­uary, said Thurs- day that “any mem­ber-elect can ob­ject to the seat­ing and the swear­ing-in of an­other mem­ber elect.” She also noted the in­ves­tiga­tive power of the House to de­ter­mine race win­ners.

It’s “big­ger than that one seat,” she said, point­ing to the over­all “in­tegrity of elec­tions.”

A state elec­tion board spokesman con­firmed Thurs­day that sub­poe­nas seek­ing doc­u­ments had been sent to the Har­ris cam­paign, the firm serv­ing as Har­ris’ chief strate­gist and the cam­paign com­mit­tee of the sit­ting Bladen sher­iff. The board re­leased doc­u­ments show­ing that McCrae Dow­less, a con­trac­tor hired by the firm, seems to have col­lected the most ab­sen­tee bal­lot re­quest forms in Bladen County this fall.

In North Carolina, sev­eral state Se­nate Repub­li­cans whose dis­tricts over­lap the 9th called for fur­ther scru­tiny of vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties go­ing back to 2010 and urged Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Cooper to cre­ate a bi­par­ti­san task force — sep­a­rate from the state elec­tions board — to in­ves­ti­gate ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties beyond this year’s elec­tion.

KAITLIN MCKE­OWN/AP 2016

Dal­las Wood­house, right, said the Repub­li­can Party is look­ing for “sub­stan­tial like­li­hood” that wrong­do­ing swayed North Carolina’s un­re­solved con­gres­sional race.

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