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What's happening in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District

It became abundantly clear on Tuesday that the only way to truly resolve the ...

Posted: Dec 12, 2018 1:29 PM
Updated: Dec 12, 2018 1:29 PM

It became abundantly clear on Tuesday that the only way to truly resolve the issues at play in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District is for voters to have a second opportunity to make their voices heard.

That possibility became a bit more likely on Tuesday, when North Carolina Republicans -- the party won the congressional seat in last month's elections -- said a new election would be necessary if investigators can verify a local newspaper report that early voting results in Bladen County were leaked before Election Day.

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Here's a look at where things currently stand.

Redo looks increasingly likely

Democrats, for obvious reasons, have already started gearing up for the possibility of a new election. Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate, has started raising money and he is getting his staff back together. He is also receiving reinforcements in the form of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffers on the ground in North Carolina.

The big shift on Monday came from Republicans, who saw an opening in the form of the report that early vote totals were leaked ahead of election night. That led the bombastic North Carolina GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse to declare that if the revelations are true, there should be a do-over. He also added they were pretty convinced they were true.

But even though both Democrats and Republicans want a new election, to be clear, they don't have a say. This decision is still in the hands of the State Board of Elections. The NCSBE still plans to follow through on their exhaustive investigation of the matter, which will include a public hearing in the coming days. The board wants this to be about the facts, not the feelings of the players involved.

Will there be a new primary, too?

While ordering a redo of the general election is relatively easy under North Carolina law (it just requires a vote by the current board of elections), a new primary is much taller order. It is not exactly clear what it would take, but we know it is beyond the control of the Board of Elections because they had already certified the primary.

On Tuesday, Republican state lawmakers in Raleigh attempted to tie a requirement that the primary be held again in the event of a new general election to a broader bill on the composition of the Board of Elections. They ultimately could not get the votes to move the measure forward. That means a new primary would likely have to be ordered by the House of Representatives in Washington, which would likely be a complicated and messy process for which it would be difficult to muster support.

Despite those complications, expect Republicans to continue their push for a new primary. Under any circumstance, Mark Harris, the GOP representative-elect, would enter a new general election as a candidate connected to serious allegations of fraud, making his chances of winning that much more difficult. Couple that with the fact that Harris took out an incumbent Republican in Robert Pittenger and it is easy to see why the GOP would want a complete overhaul of the election, and Democrats might not.

But what about the Democrats?

Over the last few days, there has been a slow trickle of new revelations about get-out-the-vote conduct in Bladen County that is suspicious and not completely in line with North Carolina law. That conduct is not reserved to Republicans.

One specific Political Action Committee with a history of receiving donations from the North Carolina Democratic Party had two paid staffers that personally served as witnesses for more than 100 absentee ballots. In addition, a Democratic member of the Bladen County Board of Elections was once a business partner of McCrae Dowless, the central figure in the broad conspiracy being investigated by the Board of Elections and the Wake County District Attorney's Office.

Dowless has not responded to multiple calls from CNN for comment but previously denied wrongdoing to The Charlotte Observer. The state Democratic Party has defended the move by the staffers to serve as witnesses for the ballots, saying they were not party to collecting those ballots and physically submitting them on behalf of the voters.

While these stories are worth pointing out, it is important to remember there would be no talk of a new election if not for the multiple examples of potentially criminal behavior by Dowless. And while it is true that Dowless is clearly not an ideological Republican with a passion for conservative policies (he has worked for Democrats and has been registered as one in the past), in this election, at this time, he was working for the Republican candidate. He and those connected to him are the only ones being investigated for criminal activity.

Every day, a new Dowless revelation

Speaking of Dowless, the full extent of what he was up to may never be known, but it seems like there is a new clue about his operation every day. On Tuesday, a Bladen County resident (and Republican) Kenneth Simmons signed an affidavit claiming he saw Dowless with a stack of absentee ballots in his hand prior to the election. Simmons said Dowless bragged he had more than 800 in his possession. It is illegal under North Carolina law to collect and cast ballots on behalf of someone other than a close relative.

While Dowless was well known in Bladen County, it's unlikely, to say the least, that he has 800 close family members. Simmons also said he was concerned Dowless was not actually going to submit the ballots. Among the things Dowless is being investigated for is collecting ballots and not turning them in. At this point, there is no publicly revealed evidence to specifically back up that claim, but stories like this could feed that narrative.

District demographics at play

I spent most of the last two days in the 9th District talking to voters who either cast or applied for an absentee ballot and that ballot was connected to Dowless or his associates.

There was undoubtedly a trend among the people I spoke to.

They were largely uninterested in politics and did not have a specific understanding of how the process works. In many cases, they were elderly or homebound. They were also living in clusters of homes or apartments where they could easily be tracked down. Dowless knew the type of person that could fall victim to a scheme where their vote could be used for his purposes.

Even now, with all the attention paid to the story and their sleepy hometown, most did not grasp the ramifications and were surprised to see CNN knocking on their door. Despite not having a complete understanding of what was at stake, one thing was for sure: they were already suspect of a system they viewed as stacked against them, and this story has only increased that lack of trust.

"Do you want me to be honest?" Crystal Adams asked me. "When I hear them talking about it, I just walk the other way. I care nothing for politics."

In fact, she was so disgusted with politics that she specifically chose to sit out the 2018 election -- yet there was an absentee ballot application submitted in her name. An absentee ballot application that State Board of Elections records show was submitted by MacCrae Dowless. Adams told me she never filled out an application.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 484675

Reported Deaths: 9480
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33151493
Hinds31184589
DeSoto30803365
Jackson23735349
Rankin21390373
Lee14963221
Madison14206272
Jones13430227
Forrest13199241
Lauderdale11623307
Lowndes10501176
Lamar10258130
Pearl River9151221
Lafayette8268137
Hancock7534113
Washington7144152
Oktibbeha6989124
Monroe6533167
Neshoba6489201
Warren6486166
Pontotoc632993
Panola6278127
Marshall6165126
Bolivar6129145
Union576089
Pike5626138
Alcorn540590
Lincoln5310132
George473572
Scott461596
Leflore4495140
Tippah448180
Prentiss447979
Itawamba4457100
Adams4429117
Tate4420103
Wayne434667
Simpson4339114
Copiah432988
Yazoo423686
Covington417192
Sunflower4155104
Marion4111104
Coahoma3986100
Leake398286
Newton372375
Grenada3565104
Stone351360
Tishomingo338389
Attala325987
Jasper316062
Winston305691
Clay297374
Chickasaw287866
Clarke283290
Calhoun267741
Holmes262887
Smith252249
Yalobusha224347
Tallahatchie221150
Walthall211758
Greene209945
Lawrence207034
Perry201054
Amite199452
Webster196942
Noxubee179339
Montgomery172954
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162537
Tunica154235
Benton143035
Kemper138840
Choctaw128826
Claiborne127134
Humphreys127038
Franklin116928
Quitman104227
Wilkinson102036
Jefferson91533
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 790648

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1117431765
Mobile709021237
Madison50032633
Shelby36350315
Baldwin36278495
Tuscaloosa34034548
Montgomery33229678
Lee22712220
Calhoun21297410
Morgan19852335
Etowah19341462
Marshall17716274
Houston16862386
St. Clair15479305
Cullman14659258
Limestone14609188
Elmore14507264
Lauderdale13557281
Talladega13015236
DeKalb12214237
Walker10604330
Blount9735157
Autauga9691137
Jackson9400158
Coffee8934175
Dale8631173
Colbert8545184
Tallapoosa6688181
Escambia6599121
Covington6466167
Chilton6395144
Russell608755
Franklin5805101
Chambers5425134
Marion4818120
Dallas4713189
Clarke464079
Pike463297
Geneva4433117
Winston427395
Lawrence4124108
Bibb410281
Barbour347470
Marengo326485
Monroe320253
Butler318490
Randolph306656
Pickens306474
Henry302658
Hale293085
Cherokee290855
Fayette280373
Washington245548
Crenshaw238770
Cleburne236751
Clay229265
Macon220658
Lamar200443
Conecuh182046
Coosa170835
Lowndes170858
Wilcox159736
Bullock149543
Perry136537
Sumter124736
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
Out of AL00
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Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 73°
Columbus
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Feels Like: 72°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
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Feels Like: 72°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
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Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Little bits and pieces of low pressure move back into our area over the next several days. This will bring back into our weather forecast some more chances for some isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms.
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