Undecided North Carolina race seems headed for new election

With more evidence of election fraud still surfacing in the race for North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District, the legislature in the Tar Heel State voted on Wednesday to give new powers to the state elections board, allowing the panel to call for an entirely new election - including a new primary - possibly allowing Republicans to field a new candidate for the seat in 2019.

No action on the race - in which Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes - has yet been taken by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is set to hold a new hearing before December 21; the Governor must decide whether to sign this new bill by December 22.

The actions by the state legislature came as new evidence has emerged of possible absentee ballot fraud, including charges that a GOP operative may have been in possession of hundreds of ballots, and that preliminary totals of absentees in one county were tallied before Election Day, a violation of state law.

Under North Carolina law as currently written, the board of elections can only order a new election with the same candidates involved - but Republicans are worried that Harris - who also faces questions about possible fraud in the GOP primary - might be too tainted because of his ties to McRae Dowless, who was running some kind of absentee ballot operation in rural Bladen County for the Harris campaign.

While Harris lost the absentee-by-mail votes across the Ninth District to Democrat Dan McCready, Harris won 61 percent of those votes in Bladen County - even though registered Republicans cast only 19 percent of those specific ballots.

Stories have also emerged in recent days from people who did work for Dowless, saying that he had hundreds of absentee ballots in his possession, something which is illegal under North Carolina law.

Dowless has been accused of not only collecting ballots, but also possibly tampering with, and discarding them.

While Harris has denied knowledge of any absentee ballot operation, the GOP winner has been quiet about the almost daily drumbeat of new information, save for a video statement made several days ago.

If the North Carolina elections board decides to hold a new election, it would probably take months for the primary and general election - leaving that seat vacant as the 116th Congress convenes in January.

So far, Congressional Democrats have not indicated whether they will investigate the election fraud questions from the November election, along with questions about possible absentee ballot fraud in the GOP primary, which saw Harris win an astounding 95 percent of the absentee-by-mail ballots in Bladen County, as he defeated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC).

Pittenger has not said if he will run again, but has raised questions about Dowless and possible fraud.

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