This is the Republican Party. Whatever you want to tell yourself it represents, when you look at their actions, the GOP is an inherently anti-democratic party (here are eight examples of Republicans literally rolling back democracy for their own electoral gain), and they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt on the shadiness coming out of the 9th congressional district. The onus is on the GOP to explain how this isn’t election fraud. Per The Washington Post:
In a low-slung, aging commercial strip across the street from an online-gaming parlor here, a local operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless ran his command center for Republican Mark Harris in the 9th Congressional District primary this spring.
Dowless sat at a desk at the back of one of the strip’s vacant storefronts, where he oversaw a crew of workers who collected absentee ballots from voters and updated the Harris campaign on the numbers, according to Jeff Smith, who is the building’s owner and a former Dowless friend.
Smith provided his account about the primary campaign to state investigators, who are examining whether Dowless’s activities then and in the general election violated North Carolina’s election laws, which allow only individual voters or designated close relatives to mail a ballot.
This woman working for Dowless told local Channel 9 that she was paid $75 to $100 per week and was instructed to gather ballots and give them to the campaign, not mail them to the state.
Channel 9 elaborated on what they found in their investigation:
What Channel 9 found appears to be a targeted effort to illegally pick up ballots, in which even the person picking them up had no idea whether those ballots were even delivered to the elections board.
Consistently, Channel 9 found the same people signing as witnesses for the people voting, which is very rare.
North Carolina has delayed the announcement of a winner in this race (Republican Mark Harris is leading Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes) while they investigate this potential election fraud, and they may declare this election void and schedule a new one. If you find yourself shocked by this, consider that in the last decade of Republican rule in North Carolina, the state has gone from an ostensibly normal democratic state to being considered “not a democracy” by the Electoral Integrity Project. In fact, the EIP's score given to North Carolina is similar to authoritarian regimes like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. When it comes to the “integrity of voting district boundaries” (read: gerrymandering), no other country in the EIP's history received as low of a score as North Carolina.
This is the Republican Party. They lose when everyone votes. Especially anyone who's not a white man. They concentrate all their efforts in ensuring that voting is hard to do, and that creates a culture where the worst actors take standard GOP dogma to its logical end. Unless the Democratic Party puts a robust voting rights and pro-democracy agenda on every single one of their tickets across the country, this will get worse. The 1964 Civil Rights Act shouldn't be viewed as the end of legislation designed to address America's anti-democratic behavior, but the start. With the Republican-controlled Supreme Court blowing a hole in the Voting Rights Act (because Chief Justice John Roberts asserted that the racism which precipitated the bill is no more), in many ways we have returned to a pre-1964 voting rights era. America is moving backwards, which is just how the Republican Party likes it.
UPDATE: Channel 9 spoke to another woman today who worked for the North Carolina Republican and she described “stacks of [ballots] on [Dowless'] desk.”
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.