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State officials investigate potential election fraud in North Carolina; emergency hearing possible

The outcome of the election is in doubt

President Donald Trump and North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Harris. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

State officials have begun investigating potential election fraud in North Carolina's 9th District, and a congressman has called for an emergency hearing to look into the issue and discuss how to proceed, according to WSOC-TV and Reuters.

The race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready initially ended with Harris leading by 905 votes, but the North Carolina State Board of Elections has refused to certify it over irregularities with absentee mail-in ballots.

The main issue: Harris won an unusually high percentage of the absentee mail-in vote in Bladen County. Multiple people have admitted to WSOC's Joe Bruno that they were paid to serve as witnesses to and collect absentee mail-in ballots, which is illegal.

People paid to collect ballots and who signed dozens of ballot envelopes as witnesses are connected to Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative hired by Harris's campaign to help "get out the vote."

A little background on Dowless: Dowless is the vice chair of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District board. He has been convicted of felony fraud in the past, and also charged with perjury. For nearly the past decade, Dowless has been hired by state and local candidates to "get out the vote," and his past efforts have also been marked with absentee mail-in ballot irregularities.

Subpoenas have been issued for Harris's campaign, Red Dome (the political consulting firm Dowless has worked under), and the campaign of County Sheriff Jim McVicker, who also has paid for Dowless's services. State investigators are on the ground in Bladen County talking to people involved with the potential election fraud scheme.

Congress getting involved: Reuters reported that Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) called for an emergency hearing over the election fraud claims.

"While the Republican majority is once again chasing conspiracies, real election fraud is playing out right before us in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District," Connolly said in a statement.

Possible outcomes: According to Reuters, state officials could call for a new election, or the U.S. House of Representatives could rule on the outcome.

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