North Carolina Officials Order New Election in Disputed House Race

North Carolina electors rehearse in the North Carolina State Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C., December 18, 2016. (Jonathan Drake/REUTERS)

North Carolina officials on Thursday ordered that a second election take place in the state’s ninth district after the initially victorious Republican candidate conceded that the first vote was tainted by an illegal get-out-the-vote effort indirectly backed by his campaign.

The state board of elections voted unanimously to hold a second election after being presented with evidence that Leslie McCrae McDowless, a contractor hired by Republican Mark Harris’s campaign, ordered his volunteers to go door-to-door collecting absentee ballots and, in some cases, filling them out in favor of Harris.

After resisting calls for a new election since November, Harris relented on the witness stand on Thursday and conceded that public faith in the election had been sufficiently eroded so as to warrant a new election.

“It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the Ninth District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” Harris said.

Harris still maintains, however, that he was unaware of McDowless activities at the time they occurred. Neither McDowless nor any of his volunteers, many of whom are family and friends, have yet been charged in connection with the scheme.

McDowless has previously been charged with felony fraud and was accused in 2016 of interfering with absentee ballot collection in a different race.

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