Pelosi said Thursday the House "retains the right to decide who is seated". That scandal, involving the alleged disappearance of minority voters' absentee ballots to the apparent benefit of Republican candidate Mark Harris, underscores a remarkable turn in the battle over election integrity.
The submission, made at 10:12 pm on Thursday night by the Harris campaign, was the first public admission by the candidate that he had hired the Red Dome Group specifically to do work for him in Bladen County; Red Dome reportedly hired McCrae Dowless, the local political operative who seems to have been in charge of an illegal absentee ballot operation which helped Harris. At that time, the GOP chair demanded a quick certification before the Democratic majority on the election board could "unscrupulously order a new election on a party line vote".
Pelosi, who's nominated to become House speaker when Democrats take control in January, said Thursday that 'any member-elect can object to the seating and the swearing-in of another member elect.' She also noted the investigative power of the House to determine race winners.
The race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready initially ended with Harris leading by 905 votes, but the North Carolina State Board of Elections has refused to certify it over irregularities with absentee mail-in ballots.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics said it was now investigating "claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting and potentially other matters in the 9th Congressional District contest". Dowless, moreover, may have been running schemes like this for years, financed partially by contributions from the Bladen County Republican Party. As I noted yesterday, the Constitution and the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969 gives the House a range of options in dealing with such a challenge, including ordering a new election or just flat-out certifying McCready as the victor and seating him instead of Harris.
If the District 9 race is not certified by the state board, the leaders of the U.S. House can select either Harris or McCready to fill the seat, Stone said. Though this wasn't by itself a cause for concern, Harris had earned 437 absentee mail-in votes to Pittenger's 17, he told the publication. It also didn't certify the results of the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 and in Robeson County the District Court 16B Seat 2 race between Republican Jack Moody and Democrat Vanessa Burton.
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NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman denied that anyone affiliated with the Pittenger campaign brought up possible fraud to anyone at the committee, including Tyler Foote, who ran the southeast region for the NRCC.
He recalled concluding that Harris had won the overall vote with a strong showing from evangelical voters, but he said: "We did not look real specifically at absentee ballots".
"This has shaken us to the core", he said.
Andy Yates, a general consultant on Harris' campaign, told The Washington Post that Harris "was aware" of his firm's "relationship with Mr. Dowless and believes like I do that Mr. Dowless operated within the bounds of the law".
"North Carolina doesn't allow ballot harvesting", he said. Two members of Dowless's own staff have said they collected absentee ballots at his behest, not knowing it was illegal. Initial counts showed Moody to be the victor by 138 votes.
Woodhouse's comments on Thursday stand in contrast to his position earlier in the week when he dismissed the idea of a new election in the Ninth District.