North Carolina Republican to testify in election fraud probe

North Carolina Republican to testify in election fraud probe

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Harris waits to be introduced during a volunteer meeting and rally at the Ardmore Auditorium in Winston-Salem

(Reuters) – The North Carolina Republican whose congressional campaign is under investigation for potentially tipping the election in his favor with an alleged illegal operation to collect absentee ballots is expected to testify to state election officials on Thursday.

The state board of elections has scheduled a fourth day of evidence hearings into whether Republican Mark Harris’ campaign benefited from illegal election manipulation by a political consultant, which may have helped him beat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of 282,717 ballots cast in the Nov. 6 vote.

The state has held off certifying Harris’ apparent win after residents of at least two counties in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District said operatives working for Harris collected incomplete absentee ballots, which would violate state election law. In some instances, paid workers falsely signed as witnesses and filled in votes for races left blank, an election official has said.

If the investigation finds the election was tipped, the five-member State Board of Elections could order a new vote to fill the seat.

Harris’ son, John, testified on Wednesday that he had warned his father he suspected the political consultant, Leslie McCrae Dowless, had illegally collected absentee ballots in a 2016 election.

Campaign officials have said they did not pay Dowless to do anything illegal, and Dowless himself has proclaimed his innocence.

The younger Harris, now an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, said his father was an honest man who he believed would not have continued to employ Dowless if he had known he was illegally collecting absentee ballots.

“I love my dad and I love my mom,” John Harris said in closing remarks. “I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle. They made mistakes in this process, and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.”

State Republicans have pushed for the board to certify Mark Harris as the district’s representative. The U.S. House of Representatives would then determine whether to seat him.

McCready’s lawyer, Marc Elias, one of the nation’s top election law specialists, said earlier this week the testimony had revealed “massive election fraud” that justified a new vote.

Witnesses this week testified that the fraud appeared to be well funded and well organized by campaign officials. It is a sharply different scheme than the type of fraud by individual voters that Republican President Donald Trump repeatedly and without evidence claimed would affect the November congressional elections.

If Democrats pick up the seat, they would widen their 235-197 majority in the House.

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Source : Reuters Link

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