Opinion: Daily Journal

One lawyer’s dream come true: Getting Democrats elected 

Marc Elias, an attorney for Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready, questions a witness during the third day of a public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District voting irregularities investigation Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh. (News & Observer pool photo)
Marc Elias, an attorney for Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready, questions a witness during the third day of a public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District voting irregularities investigation Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh. (News & Observer pool photo)

Marc Elias, the high-profile Washington, D.C., political operative with a law license, has one goal  getting Democrats elected to office. A crucial 2020 election and coronavirus have Elias believing he’s got an opportunity to put North Carolina in the win column for Democrats with expanded mail voting. 

Elias, who the New York Times describes as “one of the most formidable election lawyers in the country, and arguably one of the most influential of unelected Democrats in Washington,” represented Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign and has been at the center of the discredited Steele dossier. 

North Carolina voters may remember Elias when he represented thengubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper during the 2016 recount, which resulted in a Cooper victory and most recently when he represented Democrat congressional candidate Dan McCready, who almost captured North Carolina’s deepred 9th District. Ultimately, Republican Dan Bishop won a special election contest after the original 2018 results were set aside because of absentee ballot improprieties. 

Elias is back in North Carolina. Several weeks ago, he collaborated with highly partisan Obama era Attorney General Eric Holder to file a lawsuit in Wake County, which, if successful would legalize ballot harvesting  a tactic used in the disputed 2018 9th District election. Based on the new complaint, it appears Elias is OK with ballot harvesting, so long as the practice can be continued post-election day. 

Representing six North Carolina voters, Elias is suing the state. In the complaint, he alleges coronavirus may make in-person voting in November too dangerous, and the state’s current rules for absentee voting, adopted in response to absentee ballot problems exposed in the 9th District election, are too restrictive. 

The Elias-suggested fix is for North Carolina to allow absentee ballots to be accepted up to nine days following the election, without a witness signature, without current voter signature matching, and without a proper postmark. 

The postmark language is crucial: “where a ballot does not bear a postmark date, requiring the State to presume that the ballot was mailed on or before Election Day unless the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates it was mailed after Election Day.” [Emphasis mine]. 

Let me translate into political powergrab language. North Carolina is essential for control of the White House and the U.S. Senate, and control of our legislature hangs in the balance. Suppose there’s a close race in a state legislative district or between Republican Senator Thom Tillis and Democrat challenger Cal Cunningham. We all get results on election day. If the Democrat candidate comes up short, political operatives can use their data to locate Democrats who haven’t returned their absentee ballotsand these new rules give them nine days, with no proper postmark necessary, to ballotharvest however many votes they need to change the outcome. 

Elias files this lawsuit only if it gives the advantage to his Democrat candidates because he knows his party will use union activists to ballot harvest. He’s filed similar lawsuits in other crucial states, such as Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Obviously, Republicans could do it, too. But just because both sides can turn voter integrity on its head, doesn’t mean we should. 

Expanded mail voting without commonsense safeguards as Elias is proposing would make a mockery of our election system. I saw it first-hand in Colorado, where orphaned ballots were found lying around common areas for anyone to grab. Some 61,000 ballots go missing, and erroneous ballots are mailed requiring all new printing and mailing, which comes at a great cost to taxpayers. 

To be clear, Elias isn’t asking the court to mandate an all-mail ballot election like Colorado’s, although I have no doubt thats where he wants to go. But what he is asking is worse. Elias is asking the court to ignore the General Assembly’s authority over election law and mandate a nightmare absentee ballot free-for-all lasting nine days after voting should be over. 

If the Elias lawsuit is successful, North Carolinians can expect delays in reporting our results and more work for Elias and his ilk as candidates file lawsuits challenging unfavorable outcomes. It’s a dream come true for “one of the most formidable election lawyers in the country.”