All eyes have been on North Carolina’s 9th congressional district following seriously questionable actions taken by a GOP operative during the 2018 midterms—actions that may have been a deciding factor in Republican candidate Mark Harris’ narrow victory over Democratic candidate Dan McCready. Now, McCready is fighting back and has submitted a list of 48 witnesses he’d like questioned for the upcoming state Board of Elections’ hearing on Jan. 11.
The news first broke not long after the midterms, when it became evident that Leslie McCrae Dowless, local operative for the Harris campaign, was instructing those working for him to collect ballots (questionable) from absentee voters and deliver them to the campaign rather than the state (very questionable). According to state election laws, absentee ballots can only be submitted by individual voters or a designated close relative—not en masse by way of strangers. Then, there’s also the issue of the fact that no one knows whether all of the absentee ballots “collected” were actually submitted.
The story was further complicated when the NC Board of Elections released a report from 2016 showing that Dowless is no stranger to ballot harvesting complaints. In fact, this is the second time this operative has been investigated for such issues. Further, the Board said that it had alerted state and federal prosecutors to Dowless’ actions in the 2016 election—both in January 2017 and 2018—to no avail.
Both the investigation into Dowless’ tampering and the election results themselves are up in the air at this point, pending the Jan. 11 public hearing, when the state board can order another election. This is where McCready’s 48 subpoenas come into play.
However, the drama doesn’t end there, as what was originally supposed to be a nine-member state board has now been dissolved via three-judge panel on Dec. 28, leaving the hearing panel-less.
Governor Roy Cooper vowed to appoint five Republican members to the interim board—the full board won’t officially be appointed until the end of January—just to get through the hearing. However, N.C. GOP has threatened to sue Cooper if he does so, claiming that only GOP state chairman Robin Hayes can appoint members. However, Hayes has no intention to mess with the board until the permanent board is created at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, McCready’s lawyer submitted a list of potential witnesses, pulling from those working for the operative, those whose votes may have been compromised, officials in the county and state GOP and Dowless and Harris themselves, to name a few on the rather expansive list. On the other side of the equation, Harris hasn’t submitted any witnesses as of yet.
New congress members will be sworn in on Jan. 3, but it is unlikely the election in North Carolina’s 9th District will be sorted out by then and thus, it will be left unrepresented.
Politicians or real housewives of North Carolina? You decide.