North Carolina closes early voting for key House race as Dorian batters state

North Carolina closes early voting for key House race as Dorian batters state

North Carolina closed a number of early voting sites ahead of a critical House election next week as Hurricane Dorian pounded the state with heavy rains and strong winds.

The storm comes just days before a special election in the state's 9th District, which will pit Democrat Dan McCready against Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop, in a race seen as neck-and-neck in what has traditionally been a GOP stronghold.

The Sept. 10 contest is a redo of the November 2018 election after the results were tossed out because of widespread ballot fraud.

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The North Carolina State Board of Elections said it had closed early voting sites in Robeson, Bladen and Scotland counties, adding it had not determined when they would reopen.

McCready carried Scotland and Robeson counties in 2018, while his Republican opponent at the time, Mark HarrisMark HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Why my American Indian tribe voted Republican in NC's special election North Carolina race raises 2020 red flags for Republicans, Democrats MORE, carried Bladen County.

However, Mecklenburg and Union counties, which have the largest populations of registered voters, will keep their voting sites open, according to the board.

Strategists said they were monitoring how the storm could end up impacting the congressional race. Early voting data so far shows Democrats leading by 40.6 percent to 31.4 percent.

Still, Democrats are calling on early voting sites to be reopened during the weekend, in hopes that more voters will turn out ahead of the election next week.

The state's 9th District has traditionally voted Republican, going for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE by 12 points in 2016, 54 percent to 42 percent.

But McCready lost to Harris by just over 900 votes, raising Democratic hopes they can win the race next year in the aftermath of the ballot fraud scandal that sent ripples through the state GOP.

"I think that if the hours are not extended to match the hours that have been lost due to the closures, then it very well have an impact," Wayne Goodwin, the chairman of North Carolina's Democratic Party, told The Hill, adding the closures impact all voters, not just Democrats.

"We had seen this before in 2016 with the hurricane that struck just mere weeks before the November elections."

McCready also called for an extension of early voting hours through Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

"When we faced fraud before, we fought back," he said in a statement. "This election is the people's chance to get justice, but they can only get justice if every single voter — Democrat, Independent, and Republican — has the chance to make their voice heard."

McCready's campaign said it would continue to gin up support by knocking on 100,000 doors this weekend, weather and safety permitting, to turn out voters.

"We have been, all week, doing everything we can to make sure that people know that they should vote early ever since we heard the storm was hitting North Carolina," an official from the McCready campaign told The Hill. 

Meanwhile, Bishop's campaign is calling on the North Carolina Board of Elections to issue an early voting extension, specifically calling for the addition of Saturday hours in every country in the district. 

"Our goal is to ensure every eligible voter in the ninth congressional district has the opportunity to exercise his or her right to vote, and a districtwide extension of early voting into Saturday would help ensure no one is disenfranchised," the campaign said in a statement. 

The full extent of the storm's damage to North Carolina's coast is yet to be known. The state's board of elections said it is considering adding early voting hours depending on conditions on the ground, as well as other factors such as the availability of poll workers. 

North Carolina is no stranger to having hurricanes during elections. The state's voters cast their ballots in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Updated: 5:13 p.m.