North Carolina GOP calls for new election for disputed House seat

North Carolina county's election scandal

Reporting by Ben Mitchell

The North Carolina Republican Party is calling for a new election for the 9th Congressional District U.S. House seat after a new allegation was raised Tuesday over leaked early voting tallies in a Bladen County precinct. North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said Tuesday, "We are pretty certain that happened, and if it is confirmed a new election is appropriate." He went on to say that access to early voting information has been a concern for years.

"It is key because it tells you what the electorate is looking like what the turnout looks like, and anybody who had that information has a key advantage in election day turnout," Woodhouse said. 

Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready are separated by a handful of votes in the closely contested seat, and the state board of elections has already been probing absentee ballot irregularities in the race, in particular whether Harris' campaign illegally submitted absentee ballots. The state GOP chairman Robin Hayes said earlier that the party is "extremely concerned" that early voting totals may have been counted and leaked before the polls closed. Under North Carolina law, early voting ballot counts "shall commence at the time the polls close." 

According to the Charlotte Observer, precinct worker Agnes Willis, a Democrat, signed an affidavit saying that officials who were not election judges inappropriately viewed the election results. "On Saturday, 11/3/18, the last day of early voting, the 'tape' showing election results at the one-stop polling site was run after the polls closed, and was viewed by officials at the one-stop site who were not judges. It is my understanding that this was improper," Willis wrote in an affidavit.

Harris' campaign has come under scrutiny for what appears to have been a shady absentee ballot operation carried out by a subcontractor that hired Leslie McCrae Dowless, a convicted felon, to run an absentee ballot collection operation in Bladen County. Voters there described a woman coming to their homes to collect their absentee ballots, regardless of whether they had been completed properly. State law bars this kind of "harvesting" of absentee ballots, which must be submitted by mail or in person by the voter or a close family member.

In a video released last week, Harris said that his campaign was "fully cooperating" with the state Board of Elections' investigation into potential ballot fraud. The board subpoenaed documents from the Harris campaign, John Branch, counsel for Harris's campaign, confirmed to CBS News last week.