The State Board of Elections has yet to outline the information it’s gathered. Prosecutors are still hard at work. Nothing has been proven in court. But with quite a bit out in public through the media, North Carolina’s political world has already moved beyond the guilt or innocence phase of this scandal.
They’re on to the sentencing phase.
In all likelihood, there are two ways this could play out. Most Republicans are hoping for one of them, and Democrats are hoping for the other. Here’s how each would go.
Endgame 1: The State Board of Elections calls for a new election.
Per state law, a majority of the State Board of Elections can vote to require a new election under four conditions. The first three have to do with ineligible voters being able to cast ballots or eligible voters being prevented from casting ballots in numbers sufficient to change the outcome of the election.
But the fourth one is pretty broad. The board can require a new election if “Irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.”
That’s not a super high hurdle to overcome, and North Carolina is well within that territory.
In this scenario, the State Board of Elections meets later in December, lays out all the evidence, and votes to require a new election.
Harris could very well challenge that ruling in state court, but the law reads pretty clear here.
This new election would have to be an exact re-run of the 2018 general election. There can be no do-over of the Republican primary.
Mark Harris, Dan McCready and Libertarian Jeff Scott would all appear on the ballot once again.
The race was decided by 900 votes to begin with. You’d have to think that Harris would be at a severe disadvantage in a rematch with the cloud of suspicion hanging over him.
To be replaced on the ballot, Harris would have to do more than withdraw from the race. He would have to be disqualified from it. The main way to do that would be to move out of state.
Would Harris be willing to move to South Carolina to help the party? Unlikely.
This is the scenario Democrats have to be hoping for.
Dan McCready would be as sure a bet as any in a rematch with Mark Harris.
Endgame 2: The U.S. House refuses to seat Harris
If the State Board of Elections decides to certify the results, the U.S. House would be able to refuse to seat him. This is a near certainty with the House soon to be controlled by Democrats.
Under Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, both the House and the Senate are “the judge of the elections, returns
For this article, we’re presuming they find sufficient evidence to refuse to seat Harris. The House has broad latitude to decide what this is.
North Carolina would then run a special election to fill the seat. The governor would set the dates of the election, which could begin as early as January.
There would be a new primary election, and Democrats and Republicans would both be able to field new candidates. Then there would be a general election, and a new U.S. House member would be selected.
This has to be the scenario most Republicans are hoping for.
They’d obviously like to keep the seat, and they know that Harris is compromised. This would give Republicans the chance to run new a new candidate with a good shot of winning the heavily Republican district.