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Lawmakers Say A New Election Might Be Necessary For N.C. Congressional Race


Democrats and Republicans are opening up to the idea that a new election might be necessary for a House seat in North Carolina because of irregularities and potential election fraud. The Democrat in the race, Dan McCready, even rescinded his concession this afternoon. The state board of elections has refused to certify the results of that race, and it's conducting an investigation. NPR's Miles Parks has more.

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Dallas Woodhouse is the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. Just three days ago, he dismissed the idea of a new election in North Carolina's 9th District.

DALLAS WOODHOUSE: This is funny business by the Democrats in part to try to steal this race.

PARKS: But a lot has changed since then. Now Woodhouse says his party wouldn't be against a new race as long as the board of elections provides enough evidence to merit it.

WOODHOUSE: If they can say with a strong degree of certainty that the outcome of the race was changed or there's a substantial likelihood that it could have been, the law requires there to be a new election, and we would not oppose.

PARKS: The investigation centers on a man named McCrae Dowless in Bladen County. Leading up to the 2018 midterms, Dowless was reportedly paid by a consulting firm hired by Republican candidate Mark Harris to help get out the vote. The North Carolina State Board of Elections is now investigating whether his tactics were legal, notably whether he had a role in manipulating or even just turning in absentee ballots. Several witnesses say Dowless paid them to collect ballots from voters, which is illegal. NPR reached Dowless by phone on Thursday, but he declined to comment and hung up. Harris currently leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes in the unofficial tally, but his future in Congress is unclear.


NANCY PELOSI: The House still retains the right to decide who is seated.

PARKS: That's Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who's likely to become speaker of the House next month. She said Democrats may refuse to seat Harris if questions still linger about the election's fairness.


PELOSI: This is bigger than that one seat. This is about undermining the integrity of our elections. And what was done there is so remarkable.

PARKS: The North Carolina board released documents on Wednesday that shed light on the extent of Dowless' efforts. For instance, of the 1,300 or so absentee ballot requests that Bladen County received, Dowless turned in almost half of those on behalf of voters. The Washington Post reported today that Republican Party officials, including Woodhouse, knew about potential voting irregularities in Bladen. Speaking before that story came out, Woodhouse was adamant that there was one person who definitely didn't know what Dallas was up to - Mark Harris.

WOODHOUSE: What we know is the people down there in Bladen County are scoundrels. But there's no way Mr. Harris knew. He is a man of honor and integrity. And we stand by him personally.

PARKS: The North Carolina State Board of Elections is expected to hold an open hearing by December 21 to discuss the findings of its investigation. Miles Parks, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.