The empty congressional office of the 9th District of North Carolina brings to mind other close congressional elections in the past.
In 1984, former Harris Teeter executive Republican Alex “Landslide” McMillan defeated Democrat D.G. Martin by 321 votes. In 1986, former Republican Congressman Howard “Landslide” Coble won his first re-election by 79 votes in a rematch with the incumbent Democrat he defeated in 1984, Robin Britt.
Both elections were scrutinized for “discrepancies” and “voting irregularities” post-election. Ballot boxes were impounded and recounts were ordered. Weeks went by before final election results were certified by state authorities and the winners were allowed to serve in the 99th Congress.
Nothing took the cake, however, like the 8th District Congressional race in 1984 in Indiana.
Congressman Frank McCloskey appeared to be the winner election night by 72 votes only to be reversed several days later when an “accounting error” (sic?) was found that gave state Rep. Rick McIntyre a 34-vote margin of victory.
There were two very important issues at play then as now. One is the somewhat confusing and overlapping responsibilities governing elections given to the states and Congress in Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution.
The second is the apparent lack of progress in electoral verification despite all of the computer and technological advances since 1984. “Voting irregularities” still haunt our elections.
Indiana’s Republican secretary of state certified McIntyre as the winner and a subsequent recount extended his lead over McCloskey. However, the Democrats — under Speaker Tip O’Neill, who controlled the 99th Congress by 71 votes — set up a “bipartisan” (again sic?) task force of two Democrats and one Republican that conducted a review and somehow deemed McCloskey the winner by four votes and seated him in Congress instead of McIntyre.
Eight Democratic operatives were indicted the next year in 1986 under charges they conspired to pay voters between $15 and $35 apiece to vote a straight Democratic ticket in 1982 and 1984, including the contested McIntyre race.
All of this was too late to help McIntyre, who went on to lose his 1986 rematch with McCloskey. To all of the detractors who deny voter or election fraud ever happens anywhere in America because everyone in politics is too virtuous to commit fraud, this is just one more data point refuting such naivete.
To our knowledge, no incoming Democrat has been refused a seat in Congress under Republican control in recent history. Republicans tend to believe states should make their own rules for election even if some of the winners are less than virtuous, to put it politely.
One former member was overheard saying when a thrice-convicted congressman was elected from Louisiana: “Well, even scoundrels and crooks need representation too!”
Should the majority party controlling Congress be able to overturn any election anywhere in the country? Or should states be the final arbiter of any election outcome in their state be it a federal office or state or local?
In the 1984 election, 234,092 registered Indiana voters voted for either McIntyre or McCloskey. Were they denied their “one-man/one-vote” constitutional right to decide who their congressman would be when Democrat leaders in Congress made their unilateral decision to seat McCloskey instead of McIntyre?
Last year, 282,717 registered North Carolinian voters voted for either Mark Harris, Dan McCready or Libertarian candidate Jeff Scott, who got 5,130 votes. Should they have the right to decide who should represent them on the big issues in Washington, or should Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer have that responsibility?
Voters in the state of North Carolina should have the final say in who represents them in Congress. Either certify Harris as the congressman or hold a special re-election as soon as possible so the people of the 9th District have a representative vote in the 116th Congress.