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Hullabaloo


Friday, December 14, 2018

 

North Carolina happens

by Tom Sullivan

Just when America thinks the post-November 6 election drama is over, North Carolina happens. It seems likely now the election in the 9th Congressional District will get a do-over.

Republican candidate Mark Harris led the race over Democrat Dan McCready on election night. But after allegations of election fraud surfaced in a Republican-funded absentee ballot program run by a convicted felon, the State Board of Elections refused to certify results and began an investigation. Since then, the tale of ballot tampering has only gotten worse for Harris.

From the Washington Post:

North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Harris (R) directed the hiring of a campaign aide now at the center of an election-fraud investigation, according to three individuals familiar with the campaign, despite warnings that the operative may have used questionable tactics to deliver votes.

Harris sought out the operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, after losing a 2016 election in which Dowless had helped one of Harris’s opponents win an overwhelming share of the mail-in vote in a key county.
After first demanding the Board immediately certify the results showing Harris in the lead, North Carolina Republicans have begun distancing themselves from Harris and see a new election as inevitable (CNN):
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.
Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in the state legislature until January and will not wait for facts. This week they passed a change to state law requiring if any new congressional election is called, a new primary would be held as well. Incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger lost to Harris in the March primary. A new primary gives sinking Republicans a chance to pitch Harris over the side:
In the version of the conference report, HB 1029, that both the House and Senate passed Wednesday, it contains a provision that would require a primary election if investigators found that there should be a new election in the 9th congressional district.

It was stripped from what the House Rules committee evaluated the night before, but added back in before a floor vote. Lawmakers had questions about certain aspects of the bill, particularly a provision that would extend the time the legislature gets for court-ordered redistricting and a provision that would make campaign finance investigations confidential, but no amendments could be made because of the conference report process.
It is not clear how many lawmakers (especially Democrats eager for a new election) knew the primary provision Republicans wanted had been slipped back in. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has ten days to sign or veto the bill. But adding a primary cycle means it could be late spring at the earliest before voters in NC-9 have a representative in Congress.

By now it is standard procedure for North Carolina Republicans to tweak election laws (most often after a loss) whenever the current ones disfavor their candidates. Often, such attempts backfire.

Update: One more thing. While North Carolina Republicans may be uniquely egregious, they are by no means unique. Add to Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Michigan the GOP in Will Bunch's state: The GOP’s war on democracy makes an unwelcome stop in Pennsylvania.

As David Frum reasoned post horse leaving barn, "If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy."