GOP plot to steal North Carolina House seat backfires spectacularly

Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris with Donald Trump and North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd on Oct. 26 in Charlotte.

It’s becoming more apparent that there was significant absentee ballot fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. As the scandal refuses to fade from public view, the state GOP is in deep disarray and the national GOP is in deep denial.

By now, we know that the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, who currently holds a very narrow lead, employed a consultant, Leslie McRae Dowless, who had already served a felony prison term for insurance fraud. Dowless, in turn, paid “repeat witnesses” like Ginger Eason to pick up absentee ballots.

Rather than giving them to the state elections board, Eason gave them to Dowless, and now Dowless isn’t saying where those ballots are. It’s undisputed, though, that a shocking and disproportionate amount of the ballots from just two counties — Bladen and Robeson — were never returned.

After days of insisting that Harris be certified as the winner immediately, things finally looked bad enough for the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, Dallas Woodhouse, to support calls for a new election in the district.

Woodhouse may have yielded to calls for a new election because reports surfaced that it was possible Harris engineered this same sort of fraud when he defeated GOP incumbent Robert Pittenger back in the GOP primary. Perhaps it’s one thing to defraud a Democrat out of a seat, but another thing entirely to weaponize absentee ballots against a fellow Republican.

In the middle of all this, former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who as recently as two weeks ago was blaming college students for voter fraud, popped up to say that this should all be solved by banning absentee voting for all but members of the military. Such a stance ignores the fact that there are plenty of people that simply can’t get to the polls, and that isn’t solved just by offering early voting.

At the legislature, the GOP is addressing this by sending a voter ID law to the governor to sign. The law is very similar to the same law that was struck down as unconstitutional back in 2016 and focuses on the near-nonexistent problem of voter impersonation at the polls. Worse, it wouldn’t do much at all to stop the sort of absentee ballot fraud that the state is currently grappling with.

Meanwhile, at the national level, it’s evident that the GOP wants this to just disappear. Trump, previously very concerned about voter fraud, hasn’t said anything, and is instead complaining about his approval rating. Paul Ryan is quiet, the National Republican Congressional Committee is quiet, and the Republican National Committee doesn’t have anything to say either.

The North Carolina GOP finally got an election fraud scandal — something they’ve seemed to long for. They just didn’t expect it would trip up one of their own, and now they don’t know what to do.

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