The N.C. Values Coalition announced Tuesday that it found irregularities in absentee by mail ballots in a tightly contested state House race. They’re asking the North Carolina House to refuse to seat the winner until an investigation is conducted.

The race in question is the House District 103, which was certified in favor of Rachel Hunt, daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt. She unseated Rep. Bill Brawley in the Matthews-area district by just 68 votes.

The N.C. Values Coalition says it has found 300+ ballots with mistakes.

It’s unlikely that Hunt won’t take her place at the General Assembly on Wednesday.

The N.C. Democratic Party described the Values Coalition statement as a desperate last-ditch effort. For his part, Brawley released a gracious statement saying he’d already conceded.

“While this new information is disturbing to learn after the fact, I have already conceded. I encourage the State Board of Elections to do a thorough investigation to remedy the issues raised by this new information and ensure there is integrity in our elections moving forward. I wish Rep. Rachel Hunt well and hope she goes to Raleigh to serve the citizens of House District 103.”

Rachel Hunt

What kind of irregularities are being claimed?

State law requires absentee by mail ballots to be “marked and affirmed” in the presence of two witnesses or a notary. You’re supposed to sign and date on the envelope in which you turn in the ballot.

The N.C. Values Coalition says it has found discrepancies in the dates listed by the voter and by the witnesses. The implication is that the voter did not fill out the ballot in the presence of the witnesses, instead getting them to affirm the vote at a later time.

The State Board of Elections currently instructs counties to not worry too much about this law and overlook these discrepancies.

What can the N.C. House do about it?

The race has already been certified by the State Board of Elections, so they’re out of the picture. However, the state constitution gives the two bodies of the General Assembly the authority to judge the qualifications and elections of its members.

Yes, that’s the same phrase used in the U.S. Constitution regarding the U.S. House, which has come into play in the Mark Harris investigation.

Is there a chance this race gets overturned?

In a normal situation, no. The State Board of Elections is generally lenient on things like this, absent other evidence of impropriety.

However, the N.C. Values Coalition got involved in looking into this race because of the absentee-by-mail election fraud investigation involving the 9th Congressional District. This similar investigation completely changes the dynamic.

Also, in a race this close, there is definitely a chance that that improper absentee by mail ballots changed the outcome of the election.

So who knows. But don’t count on it.

Is this really similar to the 9th Congressional District?

Not really. While they both deal with absentee-by-mail irregularities, there has been no evidence presented that operatives harvested ballots, requested ballots on behalf of people who didn’t want them, or destroyed ballots.

What should we do about it?

It’s time to take a wholesale look at absentee-by-mail voting. A system that doesn’t take violations of law seriously is not a well-functioning one.

Cover image of the General Assembly building by James Willamor via Flickr (Creative Commons) 

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