Mark Harris Calls For New Election In North Carolina House Race The State Board of Elections unanimously voted to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District after four days of testimony uncovered evidence that last fall's election was tainted.
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New Election Called In North Carolina House Race

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New Election Called In North Carolina House Race

New Election Called In North Carolina House Race

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A dramatic moment in a hearing room in Raleigh, N.C., today

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK HARRIS: Through the testimony I've listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called. It's become clear to me that the public's confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.

CORNISH: That was Republican Mark Harris calling for a new election in the only unresolved race of the 2018 midterms. Shortly after, he said that state election officials voted to do over the entire contest in the state's 9th Congressional District. NPR reporter Miles Parks was in that hearing room. He joins us now. And, Miles, what more have you learned about what happened today?

MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Well, it was a pretty amazing scene, Audie. Basically we got a resolution to something that we've been waiting for for months. Today was the day where Mark Harris was set to take the stand in this hearing that's been going on all week. And we were going to hear about what he knew about this absentee ballot scheme that investigators have been laying out since Monday. Basically, the scheme was orchestrated by a political operative named McCrae Dowless who was hired by Harris. And a number of witnesses have testified that they were being paid by Dowless to collect ballots. Somebody even testified that they were filling in those ballots. Both of those things are illegal in North Carolina.

So it became clearer and clearer over the past few days that these election results in the 9th District were tainted. And you heard Harris in that clip of tape right there. So at the end of the day, we had a bipartisan vote - a unanimous vote, 5-0, to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District in North Carolina, which that unanimous vote, obviously, pretty amazing considering how election security has become such a partisan issue.

CORNISH: For months, Mark Harris said that he did nothing wrong, right? And state Republicans kept arguing that the number of votes in dispute wouldn't have changed the outcome of the race. Why the sudden change of heart?

PARKS: Right. So I think it really comes down to yesterday's testimony from John Harris who's Mark Harris's son. He's an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, and he gave a very emotional, hours-long testimony where he laid out how he warned his father about McCrae Dowless's absentee ballot scheme. Basically, he did some pretty intense data analysis on the 2016 election results in which Dowless was working. And he came to the conclusion that he thought Dowless was doing illegal tactics to get the results that he was getting. He told his father that. And his father did not heed his warnings, according to his testimony. That really cuts at the heart of what Mark Harris has been saying for months that he knew nothing about McCrae Dowless, that nobody had warned him and that he was completely blindsided by these allegations.

CORNISH: Now that a new election has been called, what happens next?

PARKS: That is still being determined at this point. North Carolina passed a law a few months ago that said new primary elections have to be held if a new general election is going to be held in a statewide race. So we're going to be having a new primary. And it's unclear at this point whether Mark Harris is going to run and whether he can win the support of state Republicans in a Republican primary for this seat. Obviously, this is a lot of baggage regardless of whether he knew about what was going on there. If he didn't know, that's obviously not a great look as well in terms of somebody who his campaign was paying using tactics like this.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Miles Parks in Raleigh. Miles, thank you.

PARKS: Thank you.

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