Our friends at Neighbors on Call are sponsoring a series of "NCGA 101" events with local legislators in Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, and Pittsboro. Register and share! Check back on Friday for this week's ICYMI by Kate.
Why do people love NASCAR? The noise, fast cars, teamwork, driving skill - and maybe the breathless anticipation of a flaming out-of-control WRECK?
If you've been obsessed this week with the long-awaited NC Board of Elections (BoE) evidentiary hearing on the disaster that is the uncertified NC-09 Congressional election, you may appreciate the analogy.
It started on Monday morning with a presentation by Kim Strach, executive director of the BoE, stalwart Republican and spouse of Phil Strach, another staunch Republican attorney who defended the NCGA in 2013 over controversial GOP-backed voting reforms. Ms. Strach began by saying, “A coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated” during the 9th district election. See her Preview of the Evidence presentation here.
With lots of national and state press in attendance, it's unfolding hour by hour, tweet by tweet, painting a picture of an economically depressed area where everyone knows everyone, and there's no reason not to trust a guy you've known forever who pays you for handing out and collecting absentee ballots that you then give to him. Who doesn't need extra cash for Christmas and what could be wrong with helping people vote? Well, a lot, when the man is McCrae Dowless and what he's paying you to do is illegal.
Here's a Cliff Note summary so far (detailed references below):
- There's NO question that election fraud occurred in NC-09.
- Witnesses testified to forging witness signatures, collecting unsealed ballots, and filling in incomplete ballots before handing the ballots to McCrae Dowless.
- Dowless was in regular contact with the Mark Harris campaign.
- Dowless went to great lengths to hide evidence of fraud, including tampering with witnesses.
- The scope of the fraud extends beyond returned absentee ballots.
- The BoE is unwilling to give Dowless immunity to testify, which suggests that criminal prosecution may follow.
- Election officials in Bladen County testified that early vote totals were improperly viewed and possibly leaked. This could have given strategic advantage to a campaign.
- After seven+ hours of questioning, Red Dome CEO, Andy Yates, said basically:
Red Dome is the consulting company hired by Harris that actually paid Dowless.
- Mark Harris's son testified on Wednesday that he discussed concerns about Dowless with his father after the 2016 election.
- Whew, let's all take a deep breath!
Here are reliable, regularly updated sources for following the details of this still-unfolding story:
- WRAL, WRAL video
- Spectrum News
- N&O, limited views/month without a subscription
- on Twitter, search #NC09 or follow a compilation of reporters' tweets provided by Michael Bitzer, whose initial data analysis from BoE records triggered Joe Bruno's investigation.
- NC Policy Watch commentary and analysis:
- National coverage from the New York Times and Washington Post.
- I'll throw in a great tweet from Graig Meyer connecting lots of dots and suggesting what we can do to fix the mess NC is in.
Despite the evidence of illegal activity related to this election collected by the BoE, Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the NC GOP, continues to insist that Mark Harris's election be certified unless it can be proved beyond a doubt that the number of absentee ballots in question would have changed the outcome. He's keeping a running vote margin tally on a little white board.
NC law does not support Mr Woodhouse's conclusion, as one of the criteria for calling a new election is if "Irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness." This willful denial of reality comes from the party that worked for years to enshrine voter photo ID in our state constitution to promote confidence in the integrity of our elections and prevent widespread voter fraud, for which no evidence exists. Nineteen people were identified by the GOP and prosecuted for voting illegally in 2016; five felons who had not completed every term of their sentence were prosecuted in 2018. The blatant hypocrisy of touting "we have to protect public trust in our elections with stricter laws for voters" while dismissing mountains of evidence of ELECTION FRAUD committed on behalf of a Republican candidate is mind-boggling.
The BoE hearing will continue on Thursday; their ruling is expected soon thereafter. The newly-appointed BoE comprises three Democrats and two Republicans. Three votes would be needed to certify Harris's victory; four are needed to require a new election. If the BoE is deadlocked, Harris would be certified. BUT Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have indicated they would not seat Harris if questions remain about the election's fairness. In that case, the House could deem the seat vacant, which would give Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, the authority to call a new election. WUNC.
In the meantime, the people of NC-09 are not represented in Congress, thanks to a long-standing, previously reported - and largely ignored - absentee ballot harvesting scheme.
Ending on a bright note: Joe Bruno, Elon alum and WSOC-TV reporter whose door-knocking, ballot-examining efforts got this investigation rolling, was recognized with a Polk Award in Journalism for Local Television Reporting. Congratulations on the award and thanks for your work in breaking this story!