'Possible irregularities' in absentee ballots holding up congressional election result in North Carolina

Concerns over the way absentee ballots were handled in a North Carolina congressional district have led to a...

Posted: Nov 30, 2018 4:20 PM
Updated: Nov 30, 2018 4:20 PM

Concerns over the way absentee ballots were handled in a North Carolina congressional district have led to an investigation by the state board of elections, delaying the certification of election results despite the Democrat in the race conceding.

In a surprise move Tuesday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement cited their own authority to initiate an investigation into the race, which Democrat Dan McCready conceded to Republican Mark Harris the day after the election. The board meets again on Friday and could reconsider its decision to not certify the results in the race.

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"The state board is investigating possible irregularities with absentee ballots in the 9th Congressional District," Patrick Gannon, public information officer of the board, told CNN. The 9th district runs along the state's southern border from Charlotte to Fayetteville.

The bipartisan board voted unanimously to delay certification, allowing lawyers and investigators from the division to examine any irregularities. Investigators are currently focused on Bladen County.

The North Carolina Democratic Party submitted multiple affidavits to the board Thursday from voters whose claims say their absentee ballots were not handled properly. The letter also cites a high number of absentee requests in Bladen County as part of their claim.

At least two affidavits point to activities by Bladen County official Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr., who has been involved with previous voter fraud accusations. Both claims say he worked for Harris. Others point to at least one unidentified woman who went door-to-door collecting and mishandling absentee ballots.

"These allegations are serious and disturbing. If true, the people's right to freely and fairly cast their votes was thoughtfully and deliberately undermined, casting a shadow over this election," North Carolina Democratic Chairman Wayne Goodwin said. "These claims must be fully investigated by state and federal authorities, and a full public hearing conducted, before certification of the 9th Congressional District election."

The board is comprised of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one unaffiliated member.

"I'm very familiar with unfortunate activities that have been happening down in my part of the state, and I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding," said Vice Chairman Joshua Malcolm when he proposed the delay.

Both Democrats and Republicans are requesting more information from the board, which will reconvene Friday in a public and closed session. Certification of the 9th Congressional District was not on the official agenda released Thursday night, though it still could come up during the meeting.

In a statement about the decision, the board cited a state law that gives them broad authority to "take any other action necessary to assure that an election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result of an election."

Harris's 905-vote lead amounts to a 0.4% vote margin over McCready, well below the 1% required by law had McCready wanted to petition for a recount.

"We were surprised by yesterday's developments at the State Board of Elections, but our legal team is fully engaged," Harris tweeted Wednesday. "We trust the process. This morning, we sent a letter to the SBOE asking for clarity. We continue to prepare in DC to serve the constituents of the 9th District!"

In a letter to the board, Harris's lawyer requested access, "to all information relating to the investigation as it pertains to counting or not counting votes and the number of votes involved."

The state Republican Party is publicly pushing to certify the results as quickly as possible.

"Bladen County certified the results, they certified races that were much closer and most importantly no recount was called for by the democrat opponent, NOR was any election protest filed in Bladen County, (that we are aware of The @NCSBE does not have discretion of delay certification based on facts they do NOT currently have, and may not exist[)]," North Carolina GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse tweeted. "@NCSBE must certify @MarkHarrisNC9 asap or this will quickly be in court."

In a statement released Thursday night, McCready said he supports the investigation.

"(Thursday's) news reports of the serious allegations in Bladen County are troubling. We cannot allow anyone to tamper with our elections or sabotage our electoral process," he said. "I stand with voters all across the 9th District in wanting to make sure any wrongdoing is investigated and prosecuted regardless of the outcome of the election."

It's unclear how long this kind of examination of votes will take, but pressure will grow to finish the probe by January 3, when the new Congress is seated.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 320174

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22294271
Hinds20755424
Harrison18450317
Rankin13923282
Jackson13733249
Madison10273225
Lee10063176
Jones8473167
Forrest7837153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636288
Lafayette6314121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606148
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4162136
Union415877
Neshoba4065180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3373111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314571
Adams308486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272374
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232369
Winston230282
Jasper222148
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Holmes190574
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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