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Evidentiary hearing could determine new election

By Erin Smith

Will there be a new election? That is the question on everyone’s mind as the State Board of Elections prepares to conduct an evidentiary hearing beginning Monday regarding allegations of election fraud and absentee ballot tampering in Bladen County.

Attorneys for candidates Mark Harris, a Republican, and Dan McCready, a Democrat, have filed briefs in preparation for Monday’s meeting explaining their reasons why the State Board of Elections should either vote for a new election or certify the results of the November 2018 General Election. Investigators with the State Board of Elections will present the findings of their investigation into voting irregularities in the 9th Congressional District race.

Investigators with the State Board of Elections named McCrae Dowless who worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris’ campaign as a “person of interest” in the investigation.

Attorneys for Democratic Candidate Dan McCready argue that there are enough questions and allegations of fraud and absentee ballot tampering to call the results of the November General Election into question.

In order for a new election to be called, four  of the five member panel must vote in favor of a new election. That means at least one of the two Republicans on the board will have to vote for a new election. McCready’s attorneys argue that if the State Board of Elections cannot reach an agreement on a new election, the matter should be referred to the US House of Representatives for further review.

“It is beyond dispute that when fraud or corruption taint the results of an election, the Board possesses broad authority to take appropriate action—including ordering a new election,” wrote an attorney for McCready’s campaign.

Harris’ attorneys argue the former State Board of Elections and Ethics Panel which was dissolved on December 28, 2018, started its own protest.

“The State Board’s predecessor, the Bipartisan Board of Elections and  Ethics Enforcement (“Bipartisan Board”), refused to certify Dr. Harris as the winner of the Ninth District contest. The Wake County Superior Court recently determined that the Bipartisan Board began its own protest by this proceeding. Because of that protest, the Bipartisan Board scheduled a hearing for January 11, 2019. However, since the Bipartisan Board later dissolved, the hearing never happened. This State Board rescheduled the hearing for February 18, 2019.”

Harris’ campaign argues if the current five-member State Board of Elections panel cannot agree on a new election, they should certify the results of the November 2018 General Election. “State law requires issuance of a certificate of election on the tenth day after the State Board has concluded a protest, unless it has ordered a new election.”

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