CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - The recently dissolved North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is still investigating allegations of ballot fraud in the District 9 election, called a conspiracy theory floated by Republican Mark Harris “false.”
Harris questioned, without evidence, whether the NCSBE "sat on" allegations against political operative McCrae Dowless in 2016 in order to derail his future campaign as an “insurance policy” in case he were to lose, he said Friday during an interview with WBT radio.
“Was it more sinister?,” asked Harris. “Did they decide they would sit on this and they would wait and see and somehow, if $11 million and Dan McCready couldn’t beat Mark Harris, this would be an insurance policy they would play to get a do-over?”
The Board, which was ruled unconstitutional and forced to dissolve Friday, fired back over the weekend.
“The State Board didn’t sit on 2016 allegations as suggested,” said NCSBE spokesman Patrick Gannon. “Any statements to the contrary are false.”
In a letter sent to the US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, dated Jan. 30, 2017, the Board said its investigation into the 2016 election uncovered evidence that individuals engaged in efforts to “manipulate election results” through absentee ballots in Bladen County. The letter warned that it “will likely continue for future elections” if not addressed.
The Board said it turned over hundreds of pages of documents. Dowless was never indicted.
Harris, who has avoided reporter questions, told WBT he hired Dowless because of his “proven success” gathering absentee ballots in the 2016 election. At the time, Dowless worked for Harris’ primary opponent.
Gov. Roy Cooper is now looking to appoint an interim board of elections to keep the current investigation going. A new board will take over on Jan. 31, which was mandated by a bill that became law when lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto. The law also mandates a primary be held in the event a new election is ordered.
The North Carolina Republican Party released a letter late Sunday threatening to sue the governor over the interim board.
Two weeks ago, the state GOP called for a new election in the 9th District. Executive director Dallas Woodhouse cited a need for voters to “have confidence that the person that represents them in Washington is there with the support of the voters.”
However, on Friday, state GOP chairman Robin Hayes expressed confidence that Harris will instead be sworn into office without the need for another election.
“I look forward to being in Washington, D.C. on January 3rd to see Mark [Harris] take the oath of office,” Hayes said in a statement.
The NCSBE dissolved Friday without certifying the election. Harris’ opponent, Dan McCready, withdrew his concession and is raising money for the prospect of a new election. On Friday, incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Democrats would oppose Harris being seated.
“If Mr. Harris is not certified as the duly, fairly, legally elected member,” Hoyer told a cable news outlet, “we would certainly oppose his seating.”
FOX 46 reached out to House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi but her office declined to comment.
“We’re just walking into….the new year with a lot of unknowns,” said Catawba College political science professor Dr. Michael Bitzer.