State News Today- Amid an ongoing voter fraud controversy, North Carolina State Board of Elections Chairman Andy Penry announced his resignation from the position on Dec. 1.
The board of elections had announced on Nov. 30 that it had again declined to certify Republican Mark Harris’ apparent victory in the Nov. 6 midterm election over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th Congressional District.
The Associated Press on Nov. 30 retracted its call of Harris winning the race.
Harris won by 905 votes, but a number of mail-in absentee ballots from in and around Bladen County have been called into question, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
The board called for an evidentiary hearing to discuss the matter on or before Dec. 21 due to “claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities related to absentee mail ballots” and “to assure that the election is determined without taint of fraud or corruption and without irregularities that may have changed the result of an election,” said Joshua Malcolm, vice chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.
In a statement to the News & Observer, Penry, a Democrat, said he was stepping down on his own accord because it’s in “the best interest of the investigation.”
“The investigation of criminal conduct and absentee voting fraud in the 2018 Republican primary and 2018 general election in Congressional District 9 is a matter of vital importance to our democracy,” Penry said in his statement. “The investigation should be free of attempts at distraction and obstruction so that the truth can be revealed. I will not allow myself to be used as an instrument of distraction in this investigation.”
Penry had also come under fire from local and state Republican leaders who said his critical social media posts about President Donald Trump and other Republicans might suggest the board’s investigation into election fraud is tilted, the News & Observer report said. Penry’s Twitter feed no longer is public.
Wake County GOP Chairman Charles Hellwig filed a complaint against Penry, citing a state law prohibiting election board members from making public comments supporting or opposing candidates and referendums, the report said. Trump is a declared 2020 candidate.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state Republican Party, called on Gov. Roy Cooper at a press conference to “now clean this mess up” by immediately appointing a “seasoned, well-respected” replacement that both parties can have confidence in to certify the results of the 9th Congressional District and others in question.
Woodhouse said the board of elections should certify the results of the 9th District with Harris as winner.
“The certification of a race and continuing to investigate whether a person or persons did something untoward are not mutually exclusive. We investigate stuff all the time and probably should do more, but you have to have a standard,” Woodhouse told the News & Observer. “At this point, we believe the law requires there be enough evidence that the race could be in doubt. They have shown nothing.”
Harris, who last month attended the House of Representatives new member orientation in Washington, D.C., said in a statement: “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. But to date, there is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race. Accordingly, the Board should act immediately to certify the race while continuing to conduct their investigation. Anything else is a disservice to the people of the Ninth District.”
Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement: “We applaud the board’s bipartisan decision to delay certification and fully investigate the concerning allegations in the 9th Congressional District. North Carolina voters deserve to know the truth and their voices deserve to be heard.”
The nine-member state Board of Elections includes four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member.