Irregularities found in 2nd NC county in disputed House race

Stacy Holcomb 57 stands in front of his home in Bladenboro N.C. where he says he was approached by a woman during the midterm elections and offered assistance submitting an absentee ballot an occurrence that many in Bladen County have said happened

The state elections board and prosecutors are focusing on a rural county in the 9th Congressional District, where unofficial results show the Republican with a narrow lead over the Democrat.

The board is meeting later this month to hear evidence, but it's unclear whether the race will be settled then.

On Monday, Woodhouse appeared to be firmly opposed to the idea of holding a new election, arguing on Twitter that no law allows for an election to be declared "null and void for irregularities that can't be proven to possibly change the outcome".

For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today. An analysis by Catawba College's J. Michael Bitzer found that McCready won lopsided majorities of absentee ballots in seven of the eight counties that comprise the 9th District, except in Bladen County. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes, but results are not certified.

They are also investigating the possibility that absentee ballots were gathered in areas considered to be supportive of McCready but never turned in.

The state elections board has twice declined to certify Harris' victory and plans to hold an evidentiary hearing in the case this month.

There are also claims that incomplete ballots were collected and then filled out later, Cohen said. The reasoning behind the law is that it limits others from influencing a homebound voter's choices. On Sunday, Hayes said there weren't enough questioned ballots to change the race's outcome, and the next day he accused a Democratic member of the state board of "score-settling". He said the state Republican Party believes these allegations should be fully investigated, and both Republicans and Democrats need to be held accountable for any voter fraud. State investigators are examining the activities of a political operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless, who ran a get-out-the-vote effort for the Harris campaign during the primary and general elections. Two Bladen County women said they worked for Dowless and went door to door asking voters to turn over their ballots, WSOC-TV in Charlotte has reported. The board is unlikely to declare McCready the victor barring clear evidence that he received more votes overall.

The North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is looking into the irregularities in Bladen and Robeson counties, neighboring rural jurisdictions near the SC border, where 40 percent and 62 percent of absentee ballots, respectively, weren't returned.

Lawmakers there are trying to prevent the new leaders from exercising the power voters gave them, a tactic borrowed from the North Carolina Republican playbook after Democrat Roy Cooper beat McCrory in the governor's race in 2016. According to a new report by the Washington Post, the state Republican Party may have had advance warning this was going on, following a complaint by GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger after he unexpectedly lost his primary, and they did nothing.

McCready had not commented until Thursday even as other state Democrats, as well as top Dems in the House of Representatives, called for a probe of the allegations and a new election that could again pit McCready against Harris and Libertarian Jeff Scott.

Incoming Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Tuesday that a "very substantial question" about fraud exists and hopes state officials "get to the bottom" of the controversy. The law targeted "African-Americans with nearly surgical precision", said the 2016 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals' Fourth Circuit.

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