Fact check: Who ‘forced’ the NC spe­cial elec­tion?

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY PAUL A. SPECHT as­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors found vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in North Carolina’s 9th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, the state Repub­li­can Party op­posed the idea of a new elec­tion.

In Novem­ber, Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris held a 905-vote ad­van­tage over Demo­crat Dan McCready. The ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, the NCGOP ar­gued, didn’t af­fect enough votes to make a dif­fer­ence in the out­come of the race.

Fast for­ward to March. The NC elec­tions board has called a spe­cial elec­tion in the 9th dis­trict, and the GOP is rais­ing money to help who­ever its can­di­date ends up be­ing in Septem­ber.

In do­ing so, the party is mis­lead­ing donors about the his­tory of the race. A March 12 fundrais­ing email warns sup­port­ers about “hor­ri­ble news.”

“Democrats have forced a spe­cial elec­tion in North Carolina, and the race is tied!” the email says in bold print.

Is the race tied? Only in the sense that no can­di­dates have emerged yet from their party’s pri­mary.

We’ll also ad­dress whether Democrats “forced” a spe­cial elec­tion. But first, some im­por­tant dates: the pri­mary will take place May 14 and the gen­eral elec­tion will be Sept. 10. If no can­di­date gets 30 per­cent of the vote in the pri­mary, a runoff elec­tion will be held Sept. 10, fol­lowed by a gen­eral elec­tion Nov. 5.

Now, let’s talk about how we got here. The GOP says Democrats “forced” a spe­cial elec­tion — which gives the im­pres­sion that sup­port for a new elec­tion was purely par­ti­san.

It wasn’t.

HOWIT HAP­PENED

The NC elec­tions board has ju­ris­dic­tion over races for fed­eral of­fice across the state.

In Novem­ber, the board was made up of nine mem­bers — four Repub­li­cans, four Democrats and a left-lean­ing un­af­fil­i­ated mem­ber — when it voted 7-2 against cer­ti­fy­ing the 9th dis­trict race re­sults.

In Jan­uary, a court de­ci­sion re­con­sti­tuted the board with five mem­bers: three Democrats and two Repub­li­cans.

In Feb­ru­ary, af­ter a four-day hear­ing on the find­ings of the fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the re­con­sti­tuted board voted unan­i­mously (5-0) to nul­lify Novem­ber’s re­sults and launch a new elec­tion. The board acted shortly af­ter Har­ris, in a sur­prise move, ex­pressed his sup­port for a new elec­tion.

A GOP-BACKED DE­CI­SION

Dal­las Wood­house, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the NC GOP, pointed out that Democrats con­trolled the elec­tions board.

“Repub­li­cans could not force a spe­cial elec­tion, and could not cer­tify alone,” Wood­house said.

It’s true that the Democrats could’ve called for a new elec­tion without Re- publi­can votes — but they didn’t. The two Repub­li­can mem­bers of the board voted for a new elec­tion shortly af­ter Har­ris (the Repub­li­can can­di­date) said he also sup­ported it.

Fur­ther­more, on the day Har­ris called for a new elec­tion, Wood­house said he sup­ported the de­ci­sion.

“To­day I ask for ev­ery­one’s prayers for @MarkHar­risNC9 To­day is a tremen­dously dif­fi­cult day for his fam­ily, sup­port­ers and the en­tire @NCGOP We sup­port our can­di­dates de­ci­sion in this mat­ter. We will do ev­ery­thing we can to help the process and sys­tem im­prove in the fu­ture,” Wood­house tweeted on Feb. 21.

In a state­ment re­leased the same day, the NC GOP said “we re­spect Dr. Har­ris’ de­ci­sion” and thanked the elec­tions board. And on Feb. 26, af­ter Har­ris dropped out of con­tention for the seat, the GOP put out an­other state­ment say­ing, “This has been a gru­el­ing process for all in­volved, and we un­equiv­o­cally sup­port his call for a new elec­tion.”

POLI­TIFACT RUL­ING

An NC GOP fundrais­ing email said “Democrats have forced a spe­cial elec­tion” in the 9th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict. Democrats held a ma­jor­ity on the NC elec­tions board, but the vote to or­der a new elec­tion was sup­ported by the board’s two Repub­li­can mem­bers and the Repub­li­can can­di­date. We rate this claim False.

This story was pro­duced by the North Carolina Fact-Check­ing Project, a part­ner­ship of McClatchy Caroli­nas, the Duke Uni­ver­sity Re­porters’ Lab and Poli­tiFact. The NC Lo­cal News Lab Fund and the In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Jour­nal­ists pro­vide sup­port for the project, which shares fact-checks with news­rooms statewide. To of­fer ideas, email [email protected] new­sob­server.com.

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