In case you’re wondering why you should care about a scandal-ridden House race in North Carolina – the last race on the midterm calendar that has yet to be decided – I’ll simply quote congressional expert Molly Reynolds, who’s based at the Brookings think tank in Washington: “Fundamentally, all Americans have a stake in ensuring that our elections are conducted fairly and that their ability to exercise their right to vote isn’t impeded by fraudulent actors.”
“Fraudulent actors” indeed. According to the evidence (including sworn affidavits) unearthed by the bipartisan state Board of Elections, Republican operatives hired a convicted felon to essentially steal absentee ballots and tilt a House race to the Republican candidate. As a result, the Board of Elections has refused to certify the GOP’s 905-vote victory. In the words of Michael Bitzer, a North Carolina academic and political blogger, “the Ninth Congressional District’s election fraud storm that has rocked this state is unlike anything I have seen or experienced in sixteen years of studying North Carolina politics.”
Yes, folks, this is an actual provable case of “election fraud” – as opposed to “voter fraud,” the imaginary epidemic that Republicans routinely conjure out of thin air to justify their attempts to pass photo ID laws and limit early balloting. Here’s what we know so far:
Republican Mark Harris, a right-wing pastor, appeared at first to have narrowly beaten Democrat Dan McCready, a former Marine, in the sprawling district that includes suburbs of Charlotte. McCready’s performance was impressive, considering the fact that the district’s voters supported Donald Trump by 12 points in 2016, and that, in terms of voter registration, the House district is roughly 15 points more Republican than the national average. But now it appears that McCready may not have lost after all.
According to the bipartisan elections board, it’s very weird that Harris, the Republican, racked up 61 percent of the mail-in absentee votes in heavily Democratic, lower-income Bladen County. How was it possible for Harris to get 61 percent when the county’s registered Republicans requested only 19 percent of the absentee ballots? It turns out that a Republican firm, working for the Harris campaign, hired a guy named Leslie McCrae Dowless – a convicted felon previously jailed for fraud – and Dowless supervised a very dodgy operation in Bladen County.
What we know so far, from the elections board investigation and the sworn affidavits, is that Dowless directed his workers to collect absentee ballots from voters (disproportionately black and low-income voters, natch); collecting someone else’s ballot is a violation of state law. Even worse, Dowless’ workers appear to have filled out many of the ballots; tampering with someone else’s ballot is also a violation of state law. It also appears that a sizeable number of requested absentee ballots were never returned at all, which has prompted investigators to believe that ballots filled in for Democrat McCready may have been tossed in the trash.
That’s why the elections board won’t certify Harris’ squeaker victory. (That’s also why prosecutors in the state capital are conducting their own investigation.) And consider the big picture: A week or two ago, it appeared that the biggest blue wave since 1974 had reduced Republicans to 200 seats in the House, a decisive minority. But thanks to their election fraud in North Carolina, they could wind up with only 199.
The elections board has the power to call for a new House election, which would inevitably draw national attention. That wouldn’t be fun for Harris, whose campaign has been hit with subpoenas. What did he know about Dowless, when did he know it, or was he deaf and dumb about the chicanery conducted on his behalf? A North Carolina operative has privately said, “Harris is damaged goods. How is he going to be able to raise money after all this (for a new election campaign)?”
All of which brings us to Donald Trump. Inevitably so.
Remember last year, when he fraudulently declared that more than three million people cast ballots illegally and thus deprived him of victory in the 2016 popular vote? Remember last month, when he fraudulently declared that the counting of ballots in the Arizona Senate race was poisoned by “electoral corruption”? Remember last month, when he fraudulently declared that ballots in the statewide Florida races were “missing or forged…showed up out of nowhere,” and that the whole process had been “massively infected”?
No surprise, those were all lies. But now, in North Carolina, we have real evidence of real election fraud perpetrated by the GOP…and yet, nary a word about it has been typed on Twitter.
Trump’s focus is elsewhere – namely, on himself (a tweet today: “No Smocking Gun. No Collusion”) – but it would be nice if our highest elected official could bring himself to acknowledge a manifest assault on the integrity of the ballot. Because North Carolina is clearly a smocking gun.
By the way, Robert Mueller came out smocking Friday in his latest federal court filing. This passage, for instance:
“(Michael Cohen’s) false statements obscured the fact that the Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government. If the (hotel) project was completed, the Company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources in licensing fees and other revenues. The fact that Cohen continued to work on the project and discuss it with Individual 1 well into the campaign was material to the ongoing congressional and (special counsel) investigations, particularly because it occurred at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.”
Trump was compromised by the Russians. They knew his price (money), and they played their cards perfectly. In 2016, the candidate didn’t care – or care to know – whether a hostile power was invading our presidential election on his behalf, because he needed Russian muscle to build the Moscow hotel and line his pockets. A hostile power essentially bought his silence and rendered him complicit.
Twenty years ago this month – on Dec. 19, 1998 – a president was impeached for a whole lot less.