Up and down the Atlantic coast, this year's midterm elections brought up significant changes in nearly every state. The exception was North Carolina, where, thanks to Republican gerrymandering, Republicans received roughly 50% the vote, but ended up with roughly 77% of the power.
The rigged electoral system in the Tar Heel State all but guaranteed that North Carolinians wouldn't have any interesting U.S. House races at all -- or so we thought.
The only contest that appeared even remotely competitive was in the state's 9th congressional district, where former far-right pastor Mark Harris (R) managed to pull off an upset over an incumbent congressman in a Republican May primary, and where Harris apparently won a very close contest on Election Day over Dan McCready (D). The Republican's record of highly provocative rhetoric, especially about women and religious minorities, made his candidacy one of the nation's most controversial, but local voters, by a 905-vote margin, elected him anyway.
Except, maybe they didn't.
The first sign of trouble emerged last week, when the state board of elections unanimously agreed not to certify the results, citing what one board member described as "unfortunate activities." As the Washington Post reported, we're starting to understand what those "activities" allegedly entailed.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has collected at least six sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen County, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested.
Among the allegations is that an individual who worked for the Harris campaign coordinated an effort to collect and fill in, or discard, the ballots of Democratic voters who might have otherwise voted for McCready. Several of the affidavits come from elderly African American voters. It is illegal to take someone else's ballot, whether to turn it in or discard it.
Officials are also examining unusually high numbers of absentee ballots cast in some precincts in the 9th District -- and unusually high numbers of ballots requested but never returned.
The Raleigh News & Observer had a related report on Friday, closely examining the data, including the unusually high number of requested mail-in ballots that went unreturned in minority communities.
Wait, it gets worse.