Yesterday brought the stunning conclusion to the election fraud case in NC-09. After a morning of making false statements, Mark Harris took the stand, said that he was not physically or mentally up to testifying, had made misstatements and believed that a new election was warranted in the election. He effectively ended the hearing that otherwise may have lasted into next week. Shortly after he left the stand and the building, the Board of Elections unanimously voted for a new Congressional election.

The hearing produced drama worthy of a TV movie. Going into the trial, Harris and the North Carolina Republican Party officially condemned the hearings, claiming everything from there was no evidence of fraud to the fraud wasn’t enough to negate the outcome of the election. They vehemently denied Harris or his campaign knew anything about illegal activities.

Then, on the opening day of the hearing, witnesses detailed an elaborate and coordinated effort to rig mail-in ballots for Harris. Each following witness seemed to get closer and closer to the center of the campaign. Then, on Wednesday, Mark Harris’ son John blew it all open. He testified that he repeatedly warned his father and the campaign about McCrae Dowless, the man at the center of the scheme, contradicting sworn testimony by Harris’ consultant Andy Yates and public claims by his father and the top leadership of the NCGOP. His capitulation on the stand was recognition that he could either perjure himself or walk away. He chose the latter.

The trial underscored the political inclinations of the current GOP. Both Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse and Party Chair Robin Hayes defended Harris and the campaign to the end despite overwhelming evidence that fraud occurred. They attacked the press, the Democratic Party and implied that the work of the SBOE was part of a partisan smear. In another era, the party leadership would have been more measured and cautious, asking people to reserve judgment until the investigation was complete. 

Their actions and demeanor reflect the culture of the national GOP. Truth matters little and “alternative facts” justify otherwise unsustainable positions. Institutions designed to protect our democracy become targets of false accusations in order to undermine their credibility. Instead of worrying about their credibility with the general public, the party and its apparatus only tries to appeal to a base predisposed to believe whatever lies or spin they spew. In the wake of the Board’s decision, MAGA twitter was screaming about Trump’s demonstrably false accusations that millions of non-citizens voted in California and Texas. 

Despite the GOP’s coordinated attempts to undermine our democracy by casting doubt on the credibility of our institutions, the system held. The press did its job. Journalists, especially those from North Carolina, exposed the scheme and coverup, making sure it stayed in the public eye. The State Board of Elections staff never wavered from their duties, ignoring insults and accusations of partisanship. Even the Elections Board, despite being only weeks old and inheriting the case from a now-defunct BOE, held firm, making the hearing run smoothly and, finally, coming to the right decision for our democracy and the people of this state. 

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