The new State Board of Elections, which won’t be named for another week, is probably the most awaited appointed board in North Carolina in recent memory – all because a congressional seat hangs in the balance. The 9th Congressional District seat is the only vacant seat in Congress because of allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties that has prompted a state investigation. Republican Mark Harris held a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready after the November election, but the former state board, which was dissolved in December after a court ruled its makeup unconstitutional following a separate legal battle, has refused to certify the results and declare a winner.
Harris tried this week to get a judge to order the elections board to name him the winner as the investigation continues, but the judge rejected his motion, saying the new state board is best positioned to resolve the dispute.
Harris has acknowledged hiring Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless to oversee absentee ballot operations in the county. Several people have told reporters that Dowless paid them to pick up mail-in ballots, a felony under North Carolina law due to tampering concerns.
Dowless has, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing, but he hasn’t yet sat down with elections board investigators looking at the 9th District.