Tom Campbell: Yes, Mark Harris, there is a Santa Claus

Published 12:51 am Thursday, December 6, 2018

Back in 1897, an 8-year-old girl, prompted by naysaying friends, wrote The New York Sun wanting the truth about the existence of Santa Claus. Today that letter might be answered by apparent congressman-elect Mark Harris, confirming not only Santa’s existence, but also that his name is McCrae Dowless.

Something smells in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District election. Attention is focused on the abnormally high number of absentee ballots requested in Bladen County, the surprising number of them never returned to the county board of elections and the equally mystifying number who voted Republican, percentages greater than elsewhere in the district.

I’ve always been a “doubting Thomas,” believing there was little evidence of voter fraud in our state. I was wrong. Those asserting widespread fraud obviously knew whereof they spoke, only it isn’t the type of fraud they postulated. They claimed large numbers were attempting to vote using false names or in precincts in which they were not registered.

Evidence appears conclusive that Dowless and others orchestrated a campaign to get voters to request absentee ballots, returning to those same residences to “harvest” the votes. Reports indicate some voters were told just to sign their names, provide their Social Security numbers and that they, the harvesters, would complete the rest of the ballot and turn it in.

Harris’ campaign reportedly received telephone calls each morning relaying the number of ballots harvested the previous day. Election laws clearly state that absentee ballots can be completed, sealed and returned only by the voter or a member of the voter’s family.

How big a problem is this? Is it large enough to overturn Harris’ 900 vote margin over Dan McCready? We don’t know and won’t, because we have no way to prove how many ballots were illegally completed or how many were harvested and never returned.

This voter fraud may be the tip of a large iceberg. If this is going on in Bladen County, isn’t it conceivable it was replicated throughout the 9th Congressional District? And if true in the 9th, isn’t it plausible illegal activities were common elsewhere throughout the state?

The State Board of Elections has a clear and obvious mandate to throw out the results of this election and conduct a new one. Their only dilemma, in our view, is whether or not to conduct a new primary election. Incumbent Robert Pittenger was also defeated by a small margin and there is some suggestion of absentee ballot impropriety in that contest.

The issue is clouded because the courts declared the present makeup of the State Board of Elections unconstitutional. Terms of board members supposedly expired last weekend, but a stay of those terms was granted until later this month. Further confusing an already complicated issue is the abrupt resignation of the Elections Board chair, a replacement named from the current board, and a new member appointed to fill the vacated slot. Any decision this board makes will be challenged as an unconstitutional board making unconstitutional decisions.

Our legislature is devoting much time determining the kinds of identification needed for voters at the polls. They should spend even more time cleaning up our absentee ballot laws. That is a process apparently rife with fraud.

One fact seems clear: Santa will be bringing lumps of coal to some in the 9th district.

Tom Campbell, former assistant state treasurer, is creator/host of NC SPIN, which airs on UNC-TV main channel Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 12:30 p.m. and UNC North Carolina Channel Fridays at 10 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m.

Contact him at