The editorial board of The Charlotte Observer, the largest newspaper in North Carolina, is calling for a new election in a “tainted” U.S. House race that has been fraught with allegations of election fraud.
In an editorial published Wednesday, the newspaper calls for the results of the election in the 9th Congressional District to be tossed out and a new vote to take place. The district borders South Carolina and encompasses some Charlotte suburbs.
The race, initially thought to be won by Republican pastor Mark HarrisMark HarrisIdaho GOP's power struggle underscores fissures in party Hillicon Valley — Presented by Ericsson — Facebook faces critics on kids' safety North Carolina political operative pleads guilty to ballot fraud MORE, has been embroiled in controversy since the state Board of Elections refused to certify the results amid allegations of voter fraud.
Harris held a narrow 900-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready after Election Day, prompting McCready to initially concede the race.
The election fraud investigation centers around allegations that groups of people collected absentee ballots from voters, which would violate North Carolina law. The law states that only voters themselves can mail in the ballots.
Two people in the district have come forward claiming they were paid to collect absentee ballots.
Both people said Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who has been identified as an independent contractor for Harris's campaign, paid them.
“Questions remain about how much Harris knew about the work being done on his behalf,” the Observer's board wrote, but added that he “should have seen the smoke” surrounding Dowless, whom the editors described as "dicey figure" in the state's political circles.
“Calling for a new election would be an enormously significant decision for the board. It should be done with the support of N.C. statutes and without a whiff of partisan politics,” the board added.
The newspaper asserts enough is already known about the possible election fraud to call for a new election, and calls into question Harris's victory in the primary as well.
"The U.S. House can and should order a new primary, given that results show Harris winning a startling 96 percent of the Bladen absentee vote in his narrow 2018 primary victory over then incumbent Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerBottom Line North Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race MORE," the board wrote, referring to ballots cast in one North Carolina county.
Harris defeated GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger in the May primary for his reliably red seat.
“Voters in the 9th District deserve the confidence that their election was free from fraud. North Carolina statute supports it. The evidence already demands it. The Board of Elections should start the election over,” the editorial board concludes.