RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - The North Carolina State Board of Elections has everything in hand for its hearing into alleged election fraud in the state’s 9th congressional district — now all that’s left to do is wait.
On Monday, Feb. 18, the state board will convene in Raleigh for what could end up being a three-day affair, as the five-member board hears testimony, considers documents and hears a full report from the NCSBE staff.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, parties on both sides of the aisle submitted their final argument briefs for consideration, as well as a list of witnesses attorneys intend to call.
In total, there are 60 people listed by the attorneys for Republican Mark Harris or Democrat Dan McCready.
Both teams intend to call major players such as McCrae Dowless, Andy Yates, Jens Lutz and Cynthia Shaw, as well as a dozen people who have submitted affidavits saying their absentee ballot is involved in the alleged fraud.
Harris’ list includes Bladen County Commissioner Ray Britt, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, Pat Melvin — who is a friend of Dowless’ — and McCready.
McCready’s team wants Bladen County Sheriff James McVicker to appear, along with county elections board employees Valeria Peacock McKoy and Gina Ward. The McCready team also wants several known Dowless associates to take the stand, including Lisa Britt, Sheila and Cheryl Kinlaw, Jeff Smith, James Singletary and Sandra Dowless.
Also on McCready’s 56-person list — 21 of whom also appear on Harris’ list — are subject-matter experts the team has referenced in the case, including Harvard Professor Stephen Ansolabehere.
Both sides had already submitted a list of names for the NCSBE to subpoena to appear at the hearing. Those subpoenas do not require the individual to testify.
Both teams filed 20-page briefs, along with accompanying exhibits, making their respective cases to the NCSBE.
The Harris team objected to most everything about the hearing, including the proceedings themselves. They argue the NCSBE has been “secretive” and Harris has been denied due process. Harris’ attorneys also object to how the board has categorized the proceedings, to the McCready team using the testimony of Ansolabehere and to the board considering the hearing to be an election protest.
Whether or not the board has filed a formal protest was a major talking point at a January court hearing, where Harris was denied a request for a Writ of Mandamus.
For exhibits, a large portion of the documents provided by the Harris team are with regard to the 2016 hearing where Dowless filed an election protest. That protest was thrown out, but the activities — including some committed by Dowless himself — were referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Ultimately, the Harris team argues that the board should certify the Republican as the winner of the 9th district race. Harris has an unofficial 905-vote lead over McCready, a margin Harris’ attorneys and Republican party leaders say isn’t compromised by the alleged fraud.
The board would only have to vote 3-2 to certify Harris, meaning one of the Democrats would have to join the two Republicans on the board, if the members vote along party lines. For there to be a new election, four of the five members would have to vote in favor.
If the board were to deadlock over a new election, the Harris team argues the board must follow state protocol with regard to election protests, and issue certificate within 10 days, citing a case out of Caldwell County.
McCready’s attorneys argue if the board deadlocks, the matter should be referred to the United States House of Representatives for determination.
Exhibits from the McCready team also reference the 2016 NCSBE hearing, but focus on Dowless’ activity in that election year and the two years following. They allege Harris purposefully sought out Dowless for his activities despite knowing Dowless had a history of potential ballot fraud.
Included in the exhibits are dozens of news articles, including one from WECT.
The McCready team argues that at least 1,100 ballots are in question, but possibly up to 1,300, saying “Dowless’s operation tainted a far greater number of ballots than the apparent margin in the CD-9 race.”
During the Jan. 22 court hearing, attorneys for the NCSBE said evidence staff has collected would call the 905 vote margin into question.
The brief also alleges election officials in Bladen County assisted Dowless with absentee ballot tampering.
McCready’s attorneys also reference the same case out of Caldwell County, but say that the situation was different, specifically saying that in this case, there is evidence that the alleged fraud could have influenced the election.
At 10 a.m. on Feb. 18, in a courtroom at the North Carolina State Bar, nearly two months after the originally-anticipated hearing date, the NCSBE will finally consider all of the evidence.
Either way, board chair Bob Cordle has said the NCSBE will make a decision at the end of the hearing.