New N.C. elections board sets 9th District hearing date

9th Congressional District map

RALEIGH, N.C. â€” The five-member State Board of Elections will meet on February 18, 2019 to address alleged absentee ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. and is expected to last two to three days.

Republican Mark Harris lead Democrat Dan McCready by approximately 900 votes in the 2018 United States Midterm Elections, but the former state board refused to certify the results because of suspected voting irregularities in Bladen and Robeson counties.

Harris had hired Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless to oversee absentee ballot operations. Several people allege Dowless paid them to pick up mail-in ballots, a North Carolina felony.

Dowless has denied any wrongdoing.

The previous nine-member elections board was dissolved by court order in late December. A panel of state judges ruled lawmakers had overstepped their authority in the setup and in other changes to the state’s elections administration system in 2016.

Harris attempted to get a court order from State Elections Director Kim Strach to certify the 9th District results and declare him the winner. The judge refused, saying the new board has the authority to continue the investigation that started in November.

The 9th District is the only seat in Congress that is vacant. The Democrats of the U.S. House have said they wouldn’t seat Harris until the fraud allegations were resolved.