If you're late to this story, read two pieces to get yourself caught up: First, the Washington Post's extensive report about the history and methods of the shady character (with a history of working for candidates from both major parties) whose apparent fraudulent "ballot harvesting" could very well have affected both his client's primary and general election victories. And second, Rich Lowry's column on this issue, which set leftists off, but makes lots of important points from a conservative perspective. Including this one:
Bladen County, the largely rural area where Dowless focused his work, outpaced other counties in absentee-ballot requests — with 7.5 percent of registered voters making a request, higher than the 2 percent or so in most of the rest of the counties. Weirdly, only 19 percent of absentee ballots in Bladen were submitted by Republicans, yet Harris managed to win 61 percent of the absentee vote there. He didn’t win absentees in any other county. The implication is that Dowless may have pocketed absentee ballots not to his liking, particularly from black Democrats. If so, this would truly be a damnable — and literal — instance of “voter suppression.” ... Although usually not as extensive or consequential as what may have transpired in North Carolina’s 9th District, vote fraud often involves absentee voting, and exploiting poor and vulnerable voters. In October, four people were indicted in Texas on 30 felony counts of targeting elderly voters in a fraudulent mail-in voter scheme. Rules should be rigorous, and it’s insane that the sort of vote harvesting that Dowless engaged in — i.e., a private party collecting the ballots of voters — is perfectly legal in California.
As an outside party who was not a close relative of the voters from whom he harvested absentee ballots, Mr. Dowless wasn't legally allowed to collect and submit ballots (having very arguably culled undesirable votes culled from the pile) the way he did. But California law now fully allows this practice (minus the ballot withholding/destruction, obviously), creating a status quo that's ripe for exploitation and abuse. Voter fraud is a real phenomenon, but experts believe instances of in-person fraud are far less prevalent than absentee and mail-in ballot manipulations like this alleged harvesting and purging scheme in North Carolina. States that allow such things, or who have shifted to mail-in voting systems, should come under renewed and justified scrutiny:
California recently passed a law allowing third party individuals to cast mail-in/absentee ballots. https://t.co/mYFqle9ZfB— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) December 7, 2018
Probably should be revisited in light of NC-09 fraud. https://t.co/OxI5RkwTPZ
"The consensus, among people who study fraud carefully, is that voting by mail is a much more fertile area for fraud than voting in person," said Charles Stewart, who studies election technology and administration at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Still, voting by mail is on the rise. The numbers aren't finalized for 2018 yet, but in the 2016 presidential election, the percentage of people who voted by mail had more than doubled compared to two decades prior...Washington is one of three states that is an all-mail state, which means every registered voter in the state receives a ballot in the mail automatically. They can mail it in or drop it off at one of hundreds of drop-off locations around the state. Whereas North Carolina has a law on the books specifically aimed at stopping the kind of "ballot harvesting" operation Dowless is accused of running, as only a voter or their close relative is allowed to turn in a ballot in the state, Washington has no such law on the books, said Lori Augino, director of elections for the office of the Washington Secretary of State.
As for the uncertified race at the center of this contretemps, the state GOP chairman is (non-sarcastically) cheering on the local media for its reportage on the controversy, as one North Carolina's largest newspapers calls for a top-to-bottom reset of the entire election. From the Charlotte Observer's house editorial:
Amid all the questions about possible fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District election, one thing seems clear: If there was fraud, it’s extremely likely that it affected the Republican primary as much as it did the November general election. That’s why the U.S. House shouldn’t play politics and merely sign off on any state board of elections plan for a new election between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris (and Libertarian Jeff Scott). It instead should order a complete do-over, with primaries open to all candidates, including Republican incumbent Robert Pittenger, who may have been the biggest victim of all...Democrats take over the House on Jan. 3. They might be tempted to hold only a new general election (cloaked in a deference to state authorities) because it could help them politically. Harris has surely lost some popularity over this scandal, so a McCready-Harris rematch could be appetizing for Democrats. But it’d be the wrong thing to do. The House, led by Democrats, on Jan. 3 should vacate the election results and order a new election with primaries...Only that would provide the entirely clean slate that 9th District voters deserve.
I'm right there with Ed Morrissey, who isn't holding his breath for Democrats to agree to this course of action. Republican Mark Harris, though swearing that he had no clue about any of the alleged fraud, is now widely seen as tainted by the scandal, and quite possibly toxic. A do-over of the general election would therefore likely benefit the Democrats. But as the above Observer admonition points out, there's a good chance Harris' Republican primary opponent also got screwed out of a legitimate win by the illegal harvesting scheme. Erasing the stench should entail a start-from-scratch process. I'll leave you with a question: If this has all been unearthed about a single unethical operative in one state, how are states like California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado guarding against similar small-scale but impactful operations wrongly influencing elections in their jurisdictions? Shouldn't officials have to answer that question comprehensively and convincingly?
UPDATE - The state GOP is formally calling for a completely new election:
New: NCGOP Exec. Director @DallasWoodhouse tells me Party will call for a new #nc09 election based on affidavit (submitted by NCDP) that early voting totals were run before Election Day. Standby for more details on that. Says NCSBE should take over Bladen BOE #ncpol— Nick Ochsner (@NickOchsnerWBTV) December 11, 2018