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In rural North Carolina, a congressional race remains undecided as voting investigation widens

Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Reached outside his modest one-story brick ranch home in Bladenboro this week, Dowless declined to comment. Red Dome Group did not respond to repeated calls and emails.

Harris, meanwhile, has been adamant that he supports any investigation into potential voter fraud but doesn't believe the outcome of the election will change.

"Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties," he said in a tweet. "There is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race."

The election controversy puts Republicans in this conservative Southern state in an awkward position. After years of railing against the specter of voter fraud, pushing for stringent voter laws that critics said disproportionately burden African-American and Latino voters, they now face the prospect that one of their own may be embroiled in a major case dealing with electoral irregularities.

Since the general election, Republicans have repeatedly urged the state elections board to certify Harris' win, arguing that any irregularities in absentee voting do not appear to be widespread enough to alter the outcome of the race.

"We're concerned some bad actors may have done some bad things," said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. "However, you can't wipe away the votes of over 286,000 people who cast votes legally."

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For Woodhouse, the race poses two distinct questions: Did illegal activity occur? Did that activity change the outcome of the race or have a substantial likelihood of changing the race? While illegal actions should be prosecuted, he argued, they should not automatically delay certifying the election.

A special election for the 9th District race, Woodhouse said, would likely only attract about 10 percent-15 percent of the residents who voted in the general election.

"Over 200,000 people would end up having their legally cast votes eliminated," he said. "They would be disenfranchised."

Yet the prospect of Harris entering the U.S. House anytime soon looks slim. Even if North Carolina certifies the election, the House is the final judge on the qualifications of its members.

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