North Carolina officials block certification of House race over unknown voting issues

Something strange happened in North Carolina's unsettled 9th district — and an Alaska state House race is tied

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 29, 2018 6:00AM (EST)

Dan McCready; Mark Harris (AP/Chuck Burton)
Dan McCready; Mark Harris (AP/Chuck Burton)

The bipartisan North Carolina board of elections has unanimously voted not to certify the results in the state’s 9th congressional district, citing unspecified issues.

Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the district and McCready conceded the day after the election. But the state board of elections voted not to certify the results after one member cited “unfortunate activities” in one part of the district, The Charlotte Observer reports.

Board member Joshua Malcolm, a Democrat, asked the board not to include the 9th district on its list of 13 congressional races that were set to be certified.

“I’m very familiar with unfortunate activities that have been happening down in my part of the state,” said Malcolm, according to the Observer. “And I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding which has been ongoing for a number of years that has repeatedly been referred to the United States attorney and the district attorneys for them to take action and clean it up. And in my opinion those things have not taken place.”

Malcolm cited a statute that allows the board to “assure that an election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result of an election.”

It is unclear what the “unfortunate activities” were but after discussing the issue in a closed session, the bipartisan board voted 9-0 two times to not certify the results.

The state’s Republican Party immediately vowed a court challenge and accused the board, which includes Republicans, of abusing its power.

“We think they have abused their discretion and violated the statute,” North Carolina Republican Party head Dallas Woodhouse told the Observer. “This will inevitably end up in court. The fact of the matter is Mark Harris won the race. He got more votes.”

Woodhouse said that the party thinks the issue is in Bladen County, where Harris won by 1,557 votes. The Charlotte Observer noted that the county has “what can charitably be described as a colorful political history of alleged arson and fraud.”

Democrats had lodged no formal complaints in the race prior to the election board's decision.

It is not clear what would happen if the board refuses to certify the race. The board will meet Friday to decide their next steps.

“We just don’t know what this is right now, but there is something substantial enough to warrant the state board to say, ‘We need to pause and investigate this,’” Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer told WSOC. “This is pretty significant.”

The North Carolina race was not the only one with certification drama this week. A state house race in Alaska’s 1st district was certified as a tie between Republican Bart LeBon and Democrat Kathryn Dodge, who each got 2,661 votes. The results are set to be recounted on Friday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

There is also one ballot that remains uncounted that will be subject to legal review. The stray ballot was found in a "secrecy sleeve" on a table at a precinct in Fairbanks. If it is determined to be valid, the race would swing to Dodge by one vote.

If the election is still tied after the recount, the two candidates in the Fairbanks-area district can appeal for further legal review. Ultimately a tie would be decided “by lot,” which could mean drawing straws or flipping a coin. A state legislative race in Virginia last year also wound up dead even, with Republican David Yancey winning after his name was drawn from a bowl.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2018 Midterm Elections Alaska Dan Mccready Mark Harris North Carolina Voting