News: Quick Takes

State elections board hearing on 9th Congressional District: Jan. 11

Stella Anderson, left, secretary of the State Board of Elections, is pictured in October with Valerie Johnson. Both served on the previous elections board. (CJ photo by Dan Way)
Stella Anderson, left, secretary of the State Board of Elections, is pictured in October with Valerie Johnson. Both served on the previous elections board. (CJ photo by Dan Way)

The Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement announced Friday it plans to hold an evidentiary hearing Jan. 11, 2019, on alleged ballot irregularities in the race for an open seat in 9th Congressional District.

In the announcement, Board Chairman Joshua Malcolm said details about location and time would be released soon.

The hearing comes as numerous local and national media outlets have reported concerns about potential “ballot harvesting,” concentrated largely in Bladen County, and focusing on Leslie McCrae Dowless, an contractor working for a consulting firm hired by Republican Mark Harris’ campaign.

Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the unofficial count. Reports indicate hundreds of absentee ballots were requested by voters but not returned. Other reports suggest early voting tallies may have been leaked prematurely by local elections officials; if true, the N.C. Republican Party has said a new election is warranted.

As reports about potential irregularities snowballed, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1029, a measure both dividing the elections and ethics boards into separate agencies as of Jan. 31 and mandating a new filing period and primary election in the 9th District if the elections board orders a do-over.

Gov. Roy Cooper hasn’t indicated whether he will sign the bill. Moreover, the elections board is supposed to dissolve Dec. 28. The board and other parties have asked a Superior Court panel handling a lawsuit challenging the board’s legitimacy to keep the current structure and staff in place until its investigation is complete.