During the ongoing NC State Board of Elections hearings into the 9th Congressional District race, several mistakes and misconceptions have come up. Here are just a few examples.
Oops, wrong form
With all the information, references to law and technical terms being used throughout the hearings, it is easy to get confused. A case in point is an editorial published yesterday in the Charlotte Observer that claims that the hearing was all but over on the first day (link in the original):
It was over when state officials put up a slide early Monday declaring that more than 1,000 absentee ballot forms were submitted in Bladen County and Robeson County by political operative McCrae Dowless and his workers. That’s more than the 905-vote margin of victory in the 2018 race.
The slide to which they linked did not state that McCrae Dowless and his workers submitted absentee ballot forms. It would have been foolish for Dowless to do so since turning in even one is a felony unless you are the voter or the voter’s near relative. Dowless and his workers submitted over 1,000 absentee ballot request forms. Submitting hundreds of absentee ballot requests in not illegal (although I think it should be) and submitting an absentee ballot request on behalf of someone does not necessarily imply an intention to harvest that voter’s ballot.
Yes, ballot harvesting is bad
The Harris campaign has a problematic interpretation of ballot harvesting, as seen on page ten of their brief to the State Board of Elections:
Because the voter’s intent is key, any alleged ballot harvesting, standing alone, does not weigh in favor of a new election. To be sure, absentee-by-mail ballot harvesting is illegal, and it should be referred to prosecutors for appropriate action. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-226.3(a)(6). But illegality in transmission is not necessarily indicative of invalidity of substance. Without evidence to show that the contents of ballots sufficient in number to change the outcome of the election were tampered with, any illegality in how they were delivered should be immaterial to the Board’s decision making.
There is some logic to that reasoning; you do not want to punish voters, by having their votes invalidated, for the illegal activities of campaign operatives. However, there are several reasons why ballot harvesting should cast suspicion on the substance of the ballots, including concerns that ballot harvesters can exert improper influence on voters while the voters are completing their ballots. Dowless’ alleged ballot harvesting is problematic regardless of what happened to them after they were harvested.
Remember, this is not a sporting event
Way too many times on Twitter, I have seen variations of this (tweet randomly selected from host of similar tweets):
What many folks fail to realize is that this is not a personal death match between Dan McCready and Mark Harris; there were another 282,717 people involved and their votes should not be invalidated unless there is compelling evidence that the election itself is not valid due to fraud. Relatedly, the board of elections is not determining the winner of the election like judges in a boxing match. They are determining if they can certify the results of the election (in which case Harris wins) or not (in which case there is a new election).