Allegations Swirl With North Carolina's 9th District In The Balance

Allegations Swirl With North Carolina's 9th District In The Balance

10:02am Dec 04, 2018
The North Carolina Board of Elections declined to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District Race between Republican Mark Harris (left) and Democrat Dan McCready. Courtesy: Mark Harris for Congress / Dan McCready for Congress via WFAE

Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer is known for taking deep dives into North Carolina voter data.

And in a recent post to his blog, Old North State Politics, he points out some irregularities that may be at the heart of the current controversy over the state’s 9th Congressional District, the contest between Republican Mark Harris – who currently holds the lead by about 900 votes – and Democrat Dan McCready.

WFDD’s Sean Bueter spoke with Bitzer about what he found.

Interview Highlights

On one of the anomalies Bitzer found in analyzing Bladen County's returns:

[This] has to do with the absentee-by-mail ballots. In the eight counties of the 9th District, all but one county voted for the Democrat, Dan McCready, by pretty healthy margins. But one county flipped, and that was Bladen County. It went 61 to 38 [percent] for Republican Mark Harris.

That may not seem out of the ordinary. But you can then look to see which voters cast ballots in that vote method. And when I looked into that data only 19 percent of absentee-by-mail voters in Bladen County were registered Republicans.

So you had the Republican candidate getting 61 percent but only 19 percent of those voters that were in that particular vote method [absentee by mail] were registered Republicans... How did [Harris] go from 19 to 61 [percent]? So the data is telling us that there's something askew.

On what he thinks may have actually happened:

I'm kind of growing more convinced that there is something going on, whether it was malicious, whether it was intended, to try and sway the election.

We've heard a lot about the issue of voter suppression, but this kind of voter fraud...normally we associate this with somebody wanting to impersonate a voter and cast an illegal vote. Well, these are actual registered voters in North Carolina, but their ballots may have been tampered with. Things may have been done that [are signs or symptoms] of voter fraud, just not conducted by the voter but by a third party.

On where this story might be going:

I think every day pieces of the puzzle will become more and more clear. I think once the State Board of Elections holds its evidentiary hearing – meaning they are doing an investigation – and then publicly will come out, we hope, with some evidence of what are some concerns in the election.

And then the state board has the power and the authority, if they choose to do so, to either certify the election to say 'yes, these election results are valid,' or they could look at it and say, 'well are there enough improprieties, to the extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness?'

That's one of the critical standards that the State Board of Elections has at its discretion, to say 'you know what, there's enough monkey business going on in this election that we have to hold a new election.'

(Ed.: This transcription has been lightly edited for clarity.)

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