Lawyers for Mark Harris are seeking to have the disputed 9th Congressional District race certified as an investigation continues into ballot fraud in the election.
On Thursday morning Harris’ lawyers filed a writ of mandamus with the Wake County Superior Court, seeking a court order the the State Board of Elections certify his victory in November. Harris also met with investigators from the board of elections Thursday morning.
The board, at the center of its own legal battle, was dissolved last week and is composition the subject of partisan gridlock.
A hearing set for January 11 has been postponed.
Harris said that uncertainty made Thursday’s filing necessary.
“Our goal is to get certified by the state of North Carolina,” Harris said. “Without a state board of elections, we’re doing it in the filing that was done today.”
On Thursday Harris told reporters he saw no reason to doubt the legitimacy of the election and no reason he would not again hire Red Dome Group, the political consulting firm at the center of the alleged ballot fraud.
Harris said he could not say whether McCrae Dowless – a convicted felon, influential political operative and Bladen County elected official who state investigators say for years ran an illegal ballot harvesting scheme – has done anything wrong.
Multiple people have now come forward to say, in interviews and sworn affidavits, that they were paid by Dowless and his associates to collect masses of absentee ballots in the district. That’s illegal because of concerns of tampering. A close race could be turned by either forging unsealed ballots or simply failing to turn in enough of one candidate’s mail-in ballots to give another a huge advantage among those voting absentee.
Harris admits he hired Dowless, who worked closely with Red Dome Group, the political consulting firm to which Harris paid $428,908 for work in the primary and general elections. But Harris said he had no idea that Dowless may have done something illegal and Dowless himself has, through an attorney, denied any of his work broke the law.
Harris narrowly bested incumbent Rep. Robert Pittinger in the May Republican primary and then appeared to defeat Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes in the November general election.
The numbers, and Dowless’ documented history, raised suspicions.
Seven percent of the ballots cast in Bladen County were absentee mail-in ballots – the highest percentage of any the eight counties that make up the 9th District.
In the GOP primary, Harris won 96 percent of Bladen County’s mail-in ballots – an extraordinary showing against the Republican incumbent.
In the general election Harris took 61 percent of the county’s mail-in absentee vote in a race where only 19 percent of the mail-in ballots came from registered Republicans.
In order for that to happen, Harris would have to have gotten all of the mail-in absentee votes of the 19 percent of registered Republicans, nearly all of the unaffiliated voters who used that method and some of the Democrats who voted that way as well.
More than 3,400 of the mail-in absentee ballots requested by voters in the 9th District were reported unreturned, according to the state board of elections. Most of those were in Bladen and Robeson counties and can be tied to precincts with high percentages of minority voters.