The Democratic governor of North Carolina has accused the state GOP of intentionally stymieing an ongoing effort to investigate allegations of absentee ballot fraud during the recent election for the Tarheel State’s 9th Congressional District.
As Law&Crime previously reported, Republican pastor and would-be representative-elect Mark Harris bested Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the race for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, according to unofficial tallies. Since election night, however, it’s been alleged that the GOP’s victory was tainted by the fraudulent harvesting and/or destruction of Democratic Party absentee ballots. The North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement subsequently declined to validate the election night results.
Notably, several campaign employees hired by a contractor for the Harris campaign have admitted to illegally collecting absentee ballots from voters in violation of state law. The man at the center of the allegations, McCrae Dowless, has maintained his innocence while GOP officials have made pains to distance themselves from his vote-collecting operation. An investigation by election board commenced, but due to a recently-enacted change in state law, the board was forced by a court last week to dissolve prior to concluding their investigation.
The new law also provides that the new board technically cannot take effect until January 21, 2019. But Democratic Governor Roy Cooper said he would appoint an interim board under the old law anyway. This interim decision would have resulted in an elections board composed of three Democrats and two Republicans.
Cooper said he had wanted to name the board members from those who recently served on the freshly-dissolved board but Republicans resisted efforts and claimed any such action would be illegal. In turn, the state GOP declined to submit names of any nominees for Cooper’s proposed interim board.
Now, Cooper says that he will not name an interim elections board as previously promised–and Cooper blames the state GOP’s lack of cooperation over his decision.
“The current state Board of Elections will not be named because the chair of the state Republican Party has refused to put forward nominees to the state Board of Elections, obstructing action on the ongoing investigation into election irregularities in the 9th Congressional District,” a press release from the governor’s office noted on Wednesday.
Cooper also accused the GOP of undermining the integrity of the state’s elections.
“All North Carolinians deserve to have confidence in a system of voting that ensures honest and fair elections,” the governor noted. “If politicians and the people they hire are manipulating the system to steal elections, all of us should pull together to get to the bottom of it and stop it–regardless of whether the candidate who finished ahead in a tainted election is a Republican or a Democrat.”
As a result of Cooper’s decision, a planned January 11 hearing on the absentee ballot fraud allegations will not go forward as scheduled and the overarching controversy is likely to now be taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives.
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes released the following statement in response:
The North Carolina Republican Party takes their obligations under the law and State Constitution seriously. Our unwillingness to participate in the creation of an unlawful ‘interim’ State Board of Elections results from a desire to ensure that any future investigation surrounding the Ninth Congressional District election is open, fair, and transparent, and not tainted by actions taken by an illegal board. The unlawful suggestion by the Governor only served to further erode public confidence in our election system. Governor Cooper earns no gold stars for being embarrassed into following the letter of the law.
Law&Crime reached out to Governor Cooper’s office for comment on this story, but no response was forthcoming prior to publication.
[image via screengrab/ABC]