State investigators have begun an investigation into potential voter fraud and distortion in North Carolina, where the brewing controversy could have a major impact on the results of the recent congressional race there.
As the state began issuing subpoenas and sifting through thousands of pages of documents to determine if potential absentee ballot fraud shifted the 9th district results in favour of Republican Mark Harris.
Mr Harris has a 905-vote lead and has questioned whether fraud could have affected enough votes to swing the race. However the likely new House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House is prepared to call for a new election if necessary.
“The House Administration Committee will have full investigative authority to determine the winner of the election,” Ms Pelosi, who leads the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives, said on Thursday. “And … only if it’s impossible to determine who the winner is, would we take the extraordinary step of calling for a new election”.
Referencing the constitutional right of the House to judge election processes, Ms Pelosi continued to indicate they could decide to not swear Mr Harris in if it appeared as though voter fraud had occurred.
“The House still retains the right to decide who is seated”, she said, but did not indicate this was a planned course of action.
Democrats are not the only ones saying that a new election may be appropriate, as details have emerged surrounding sworn statements from a number of voters who have claimed their absentee ballots were hand collected in violation of state law.
On Thursday, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party said that a new election may be appropriate for the state’s Ninth Congressional District if the state investigation turns up significant reason to believe the election — which was originally called for Mr Harris over Democrat Dan McCready — had been altered.
If the state can say “there was a substantial likelihood that the race could have been altered, then we would not oppose a new election,” Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director, said. Mr McCready had initially conceded the racethe day after the 6 November election.
Further investigations have indicated that a number of absentee ballots — which require two witness signatures — were apparently signed by a handful of the same witnesses, and some of those witnesses allegedly listed the same one bedroom home as their address.
The state board of elections has so far refused to certify the results, citing election “irregularities.”
The board will hold an evidentiary hearing on 21 December. The board, under state law, can order a new election if they find “irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness”.
The board is composed of four Democrats, four Republicans, and one impartial member.