Last Thursday was the first day of the 116th Congress, but only 434 representatives took office. One seat remains vacant: the North Carolina 9th District, where the outcome remains in doubt as a result of possible election fraud. Accusations of misconduct by a Republican operative continue to pile up, but the investigation is, somehow, likely an even longer way from a conclusion than it was last month. Now, the courts — and the new U.S. House of Representatives — are considering getting involved and may decide whether the 9th District hosts an entirely new election later this year.
Over the last few weeks, more witnesses have given statements supporting the allegation that Leslie McCrae Dowless, a consultant working on behalf of Republican Mark Harris’s campaign, coordinated an effort to illegally collect (and, perhaps, destroy) absentee ballots.1 When we last wrote about the scandal in December, there was already plenty of suspicion surrounding Dowless; since then, more voters have signed affidavits saying Dowless personally collected their absentee ballot, which is illegal in North Carolina. According to one voter’s statement, at one point Dowless said he had “over 800 ballots in his possession.” Another affidavit, from a member of a local elections board, suggested that county elections officials may have given Dowless access to absentee voters’ sensitive personal information, like Social Security numbers. The affidavit claimed that, when elections staff discovered absentee-ballot request forms that they believed were forged, one local official (who has since resigned) contacted Dowless rather than taking the issue to the state board of elections. Dowless himself has said in the past that he encouraged local officials to contact his team, rather than the voters whose names were