Update: NC Board of Elections Chair Andy Penry has resigned.
In what can only be described as a jarring, jolting turn of events, the election results of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District appear to be in limbo. CNN reports that, “In a surprise move Tuesday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement cited their own authority to initiate an investigation into the race, which Democrat Dan McCready conceded to Republican Mark Harris the day after the election.”
The concern centers on an apparent irregularity with absentee ballots submitted to the Bladen County Board of Elections. According to the North Carolina Board of Elections (NCSBE) site, Harris won the 9th District by 905 votes.
Although the number of Bladen County absentee ballots in question is less than Harris is purported to have won the race by, it could lead to another election, despite McCready’s concession the day after the election, as well as his decision to forego his right to a recount. The absentee-by-mail total cast in Bladen County is 840, according to the Civitas Institute Vote Tracker.
According to a letter addressed to the NCSBE on behalf of the North Carolina Democratic Party, “Bladen County had the highest percentage of absentee ballot requests in the entire state of North Carolina: 7.5% of all registered voters.” The letter continues, “…we have been told that an individual who has been the focus of the state’s investigation worked for Mr. Harris’ top consulting firm, during the primary and general elections.” It closes with a request for the Board of Elections and Ethics to conduct a public evidentiary hearing.
The North Carolina GOP has also made a statement on the unexpected turn of events, taking a much more hawkish approach. Robin Hayes, the North Carolina Republican Party Chairman stated, “The Charlotte Obsever editorial board is right: ‘An election certification is being held up. The person behind the delay is being a bit coy about it. The public is in the dark. That needs to change – and soon.'” Hayes closes his statement with a call for NCSBE Chairman Andy Penry’s resignation.
The News and Observer editorial board and Charles Hellwig, chairman of the Wake County GOP, have also made separate calls for Penry’s resignation in light of his overtly partisan comments on social media.
Civitas has long been a champion of fair, accessible, and secure elections for North Carolina citizens. If election fraud has occurred, it needs to be identified, verified, and prosecuted. The sooner the better. If the state Board of Elections believes there has been wrongdoing, then an open investigation should be launched, replete with maximum transparency. The blatant partisanship that has been part and parcel of the process until this point is not only disappointing; it is unacceptable.
North Carolinians have made it clear that secure and fair elections are important to them. The voters of the 9th Congressional District, as well as Mark Harris and Dan McCready, deserve the truth. The Board of Elections and Ethics, as well as the Democratic and Republican parties, should set aside partisanship and work together to ensure that’s exactly what happens.