Election 2020

Dem. Withdraws Concession Amid North Carolina Election Fracas

Ninth Congressional district Democratic candidate Dan McCready smiles in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, withdrew his concession on Thursday night amid an investigation into whether or not a contractor for his Republican opponent, Mark Harris, had engaged in voter fraud and tipped the election.

“Hey folks, I’m Dan McCready. A month ago, I conceded to my opponent, Mark Harris,” the candidate explained in a video he posted on Twitter. “But last week, we began to learn about shameful criminal activity bankrolled by my opponent to take away North Carolinians’s very rights to vote.”

“I didn’t serve in the Marine Corps overseas just to come back home and watch politicians and career criminals attack our democracy. That’s why today I withdraw my concession to Mark Harris, who has remained completely silent, and I call on Mark Harris to tell us exactly what he knew and when he knew it,” McCready declared.

Harris leads McCready by 905 votes in the current ballot count, POLITICO reported. However, the state board of elections has declined to certify the results, opening an investigation into absentee ballot irregularities.

Earlier on Thursday, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party said his party was open to running an entirely new election, if the state board found evidence that any illegal activity “could have changed the race.”

“To sum it up, we think the Board of Elections should hold a public hearing and fully lay out the facts,” Dallas Woodhouse, the GOP executive director, told POLITICO. “If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election.”

The state board is investigating the work of McCrae Dowless, a contractor hired by Harris’s political consulting firm, Red Dome Group. Dowless has been accused of overseeing the collection of absentee ballots from voters — and even filling them out — which is illegal in North Carolina.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that the case involves “ballot harvesting,” a controversial political tool long used by special-interest groups and by both major political parties. Proponents claim the harvesting is a voter service that boosts turnout, while critics counter that the practice subjects voters to intimidation and increases the risk of voter fraud.

Here’s how it works: Organizations check data on which voters requested absentee ballots but have not yet turned them in. Activists then go door-to-door, offering to collect the ballots and turn them in for the voters. Some place ballot-collection boxes in well-trafficked areas like college campuses, returning the ballots to election offices themselves.

Dowless’s team has been accused of harvesting ballots from minority voters and not turning them in to election offices. They have also been accused of harvesting ballots that were not sealed or only partially filled out.

State law only allows a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter, so the entire process is illegal.

Support or opposition to ballot harvesting does not break down on political lines. The AP quoted a liberal organization, Forward Montana, in favor of the practice and a former GOP party chairman in opposition to it.

“Sometimes we think of voting as this really straightforward process and we often forget that all voters, but for new voters in particular, there’s a lot of confusion when voting about when they actually have to vote by, where they have to take their ballot to,” Rachel Huff-Doria, executive director of Forward Montana, told the AP.

Meanwhile, Arizona banned ballot harvesting in 2016, and a Republican who supported that ban condemned the practice. “I think at any level, Republican, Democrat or anything, it’s wrong. It’s a terrible practice,” former Arizona Republican Party chairman Robert Graham told the AP. “People should be responsible for their own votes.”

If the investigation concludes that illegal fraud accounted for Mark Harris’s win, a new election could drag on for months, even involving primaries for both parties.

While some Democrats (ahem, Andrew Gillum) have withdrawn their concessions in questionable circumstances only to re-concede as the results proved once again that the Republican won the race, this situation seems a genuine political issue, and one that both sides want resolved out in the open.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.