Editorials

Neither party seems to want what’s right in the 9th District

What’s the political controversy in North Carolina’s 9th district?

Here's an overview of the election fraud allegations in North Carolina's congressional 9th district.
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Here's an overview of the election fraud allegations in North Carolina's congressional 9th district.

If you put what’s fair and right above who wins North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District seat, what do you want to see happen? A few things, we would think:

You’d want the state board of elections to conduct a comprehensive investigation of questions surrounding absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties.

You’d want the eventual winner not to have clouds looming over him or her for an entire term over whether the election was won fairly.

And you’d want any new election to include a new primary, since it strongly appears that election fraud affected the May primary at least as much as it did the general election.

Unfortunately, a lot of professionals in the political world don’t put what’s right above who wins. They want their candidate in there. Truth and fairness are for the hopelessly idealistic.

So it was that the North Carolina Republican Party on Monday called on the state board of elections to certify Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th District race unless the board can immediately provide evidence that proves he was not. And so it was that Democrats, led by North Carolina’s Democratic members of Congress, are downplaying the idea of a new primary, knowing that holding one could help Republicans ultimately win the seat.

Democratic Rep. Alma Adams told WFAE that incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger and other Republicans failed to address questionable votes during the primary, so they are out of luck. That’s an illogical and opportunistic response.

The GOP resolution said the board of elections has not yet provided evidence that enough votes were in question to overturn Harris’s 905-vote advantage over Democrat Dan McCready. The resolution is just a statement and carries no authority with it beyond its ability, if any, to sway public opinion.

But the push not to certify Harris as the winner has been bipartisan, with 9-0 and 7-2 votes by the state board. The board is a few weeks into its investigation and is still waiting to receive documents in response to subpoenas.

Exhaustive reporting by news outlets, along with the board’s own probe, makes it appear almost certain that absentee ballots were handled improperly. At this point no one knows exactly how many votes were tainted, but thousands of ballots were requested and not returned. State law says the board can call for a new election when irregularities “taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.”

Given such shadows, what is to be gained by certifying the results? And what does the state board have to gain by stalling? Even if the board were to certify the results, it appears the US House will refuse to seat Harris on Jan. 3.

Maybe that’s the point of Republicans’ resolution: We know we can’t get Harris to be the 9th District representative next month, but we can at least rally our base.

It felt strange when NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse and chairman Robin Hayes took a conciliatory tone last week on this whole mess. But that moment of clear thinking has passed and they are back to their old ways even as GOP legislative leaders are saying it appears a new election is needed.

Ignore Monday’s resolution. With any luck, enough people want the right thing: A complete, not truncated, investigation, and a re-do of an election that is already contaminated.

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