An election worker checks a voter's drivers license as North Carolina's controversial "Voter ID" law goes into effect for the state's presidential primary election at a polling place, March 15, 2016,  in Charlotte, N.C. 
Photo by Chris Keane/Reuters

Following election fraud, North Carolina to hold do-over election

The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/18/19, 9:48 PM ET

Extent of election fraud in contested House race seen at hearing

Ely Portillo, government and politics reporter for the Charlotte Observer, talks with Rachel Maddow about the North Carolina election board hearing into accusations of election fraud in a district in which Republican Mark Harris won the House race by only
Ely Portillo, government and politics reporter for the Charlotte Observer, talks with Rachel Maddow about the North Carolina election board hearing into accusations of election fraud in a district in which Republican Mark Harris won the House race by only
The day after the midterm elections last fall, it looked like former far-right pastor Mark Harris (R) had narrowly prevailed over Dan McCready (D) in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district. McCready conceded and Harris was named the representative-elect.

It wasn’t long, however, before evidence of widespread election fraud tainted those election results. Following a series of dramatic developments, local voters will now have a second chance to elect their member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The North Carolina Board of Elections on Thursday ordered a new election in the 9th Congressional District after allegations of illegal activity in the handling of mail-in ballots.

The five-member board’s unanimous action came after several days of hearings into Republican ballot-collecting practices in the 2018 general election.

Their decision was made after the GOP candidate, Mark Harris, surprisingly suggested Thursday that there should be a new election because the public had lost confidence in the results.

Do-over elections in the United States are extraordinarily unusual, but a do-over election stemming from allegations of fraud is practically unheard of. The Washington Post went digging, looking for a comparable set of circumstances, and the best it could do was an obscure congressional special election in Kentucky in 1827.

In other words, when voters in North Carolina’s 9th participate in their re-vote, it’ll be a modern first.

If you’ve heard about this story over the last day or so, you’ve probably come across a familiar set of questions. Will Harris run again, despite the scandal? Will local Republicans see him as too toxic to support? Can McCready flip the seat from “red” to “blue”?

And while these are certainly relevant details, I have a very different kind of question: why hasn’t anyone been arrested?

What transpired in North Carolina’s 9th wasn’t just an unfortunate mishap. What transpired wasn’t a mistake or a slip-up. We’re not talking about a story in which a campaign and its associates were confused about what was permissible and stumbled into trouble.

Rather, the local Republican operation appears to have engaged in fraudulent and illegal activity – and then it got caught.

As NBC News’ report on this noted, state investigators “described a ‘coordinated, unlawful’ mail-in ballot ‘scheme’ in Bladen County,” run by political operative McCrae Dowless in support of the GOP candidate.

To be sure, a do-over election is the proper remedy in light of the revelations, but it’s difficult to see that as punishment for those who appear to have knowingly broken election laws.

On the show the other day, Rachel described what appears to have been “a big criminal fraud scheme.” So where are the prosecutions for those responsible for these alleged crimes?