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Board must come clean on 9th District holdup

Election 2018 9th Congressional District

Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews on Nov. 7. North Carolina election officials agreed to hold a public hearing into alleged irregularities involving traditional mail-in absentee ballots in the 9th Congressional District, apparently in two rural counties. Republican Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes from nearly 283,000 cast in all or parts of eight south-central counties reaching from Charlotte to near Fayetteville.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

What’s going on in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District? An election certification is being held up. The person behind the delay is being a bit coy about it. The public is in the dark. That needs to change — and soon.

The state board of elections refused Tuesday to certify the results of the 9th District race, in which Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. That certification was expected to be routine, but election board member Joshua Malcolm raised a last minute issue concerning the 9th and asked board members to remove the results from the list of those to be certified.

Malcolm, a Robeson County Democrat, cited a statute that allowed the board to do so, but he declined to be specific about what caused him to raise his objection. That, in itself, is troubling.

Here’s what we do know:

We know that board members twice voted 9-0 not to certify the 9th District results. That means the board, which consists of Democrats and Republicans, was overwhelmingly persuaded of the seriousness of Malcolm’s concerns.

We know that Republicans believe the issues originate in Bladen County, which Harris won by 1,557 votes. We also know that Bladen has what can charitably be described as a colorful political history of alleged arson and fraud.

We know that Malcolm’s move Tuesday was a surprise. Neither campaign knew it was coming, which indicates that it likely doesn’t involve an election day complaint of fraud, at least not one significant enough to cause McCready to call for an investigation before conceding this razor thin result.

Malcolm’s comments Tuesday also seem to indicate that the issues troubling him are ongoing. “I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding which has been ongoing for a number of years that has repeatedly been referred to the United States attorney and the district attorneys for them to take action and clean it up,” he said. “And in my opinion those things have not taken place.”

Those comments raise serious concerns that Malcolm may be holding up a Congressional election result because of a longstanding problem and not necessarily one that affected the outcome of this race. Malcolm isn’t saying, but he needs to, and there are plenty of questions he can answer without jeopardizing an investigation. Such as: Are there specific instances of voter fraud in this midterm election that are part of his complaint? Are they widespread enough to change the 9th District results? Is he merely trying to get the attention of investigators he feels have been ignoring serious long-term issues?

If that’s the case, mission accomplished. Now stop it. Holding a Congressional election hostage is not the appropriate way to resolve longstanding issues, regardless of how serious he believes they might be.

We’re in a fragile period regarding elections in this country. We have a president too ready to declare — even just this week — that results he doesn’t like are tainted. It’s become too common for members of both parties to question the legitimacy of outcomes they don’t like.

Joshua Malcolm and the board certainly might have legitimate concerns about fraud or other malfeasance that may have directly changed the outcome in November’s 9th District race. If so, they owe the public more specifics, immediately. If not, this is neither the time nor manner to raise them.

The Charlotte Observer

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