[Editor’s Note: This article is subject to change as new developments occur.]
When the 116th Congress was sworn in Jan. 3, there was no representative from North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District.
Republican candidate Mark Harris and Democratic candidate Dan McCready are currently at odds over Harris’s purported lead by approximately 900 votes.
At question is whether or not Harris’s lead is legitimate.
According to various media reports, the disputed votes are largely from Bladen County. Harris claims he won 61 percent of the mail-in vote, even though Republicans requested only 19 percent of the absentee ballots in the county. Bladen had an absentee ballot request rate of just over seven percent of registered voters, compared to three percent in most counties.
But that isn’t the only issue in question.
According to a report from Charlotte’s WSOC-TV news department, electioneer and Bladen Soil and Water Conservation representative McCrae Dowless reportedly paid individuals to pick up voters’ absentee ballots. Additionally, some area voters have claimed an unidentified person picked up their absentee ballots and in one case, a voter said her ballot was uncompleted when it was taken.
State law regarding absentee voting is specific: it’s not illegal to help someone request the proper paperwork to cast an absentee vote, but it is illegal in North Carolina for anyone other than a close relative to take custody of a filled-out absentee ballot.
Although Harris filed a motion in Wake County Superior Court (following the November mid-terms) demanding the certification of the election, his request remained unfulfilled when the appointed board of review was dissolved Dec. 28, which has left the state with continued unconfirmed results.
While North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper attempted to appoint a temporary bipartisan review board for a Jan. 11 hearing, Republicans refused to nominate party members to fill the seats. Cooper cited the action by Republicans as obstructionist.
Come Jan. 31, North Carolina elections will be managed and safeguarded by a five-member Board of Elections and a separate Board of Ethics, with all members nominated by Gov. Cooper.
But in what appeared to be an effort to hasten the proceedings and mount an apparent runaround of the yet-to-be appointed Cooper board, Harris and his attorney filed a petition January 3 asking the Wake County Superior Court to order the executive director of the state election board to immediately certify the November election results.
That didn’t happen.
As of Jan. 4, Wake county judges have announced all involved parties have a deadline of Jan. 15 to file additional briefs. Whether or not Wake County will ultimately agree to consider the case is unclear. A spokesperson for the courts confirmed the likelihood of overriding the election itself was “a tall order” and “unlikely.”
For voters in the Ninth Congressional district who are part of the LGBTQ community, the end results are of particular importance.
While Dan McCready has consistently been supportive of LGBTQ issues, Harris has a virulent anti-gay history.
As reported in a qnotes article from June 2018, Harris has an extremist record on LGBTQ issues. Along with the NC Values Coalition, Harris co-chaired the effort to successfully pass an amendment to the state’s constitution in 2012 and ban same-sex marriages (that was later struck down when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide in 2015).
Harris was also a leading and outspoken opponent of Charlotte’s LGBTQ-inclusive public accommodations and other non-discrimination ordinances. Furthermore, he was a driving force in motivating the state to adopt the discriminatory HB2, which pre-empted all local non-discrimination laws and cost the state millions of dollars in event revenue and business investment.