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APNewsBreak: Forced congressional election to top $1.2M

March 29, 2019
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FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2018 file photo, N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop speaks during a joint N.C. House-Senate committee meeting on judicial reform and redistricting held at the Legislative Office Building in downtown Raleigh, N.C. Bishop of Charlotte filed on Thursday, March 14, 2019 to run in the 9th Congressional District re-do election. He faces at least two others in May's Republican primary. (Chris Seward/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The new election in a North Carolina congressional district required after last year’s contest was deemed tainted by a Republican political operative’s ballot collection efforts is expected to cost taxpayers more than $1.2 million, the state elections board said Friday.

The 9th congressional district contest now headed toward a 10-candidate Republican primary contest in May could top $1.7 million if no candidate gets more than 30 percent of the vote. If that happens, the second-place finisher could force a second round of head-to-head voting in September by asking for a runoff, delaying the general election until November.

North Carolina legislators late last year required that if the state elections board ordered a new election, a primary was also required. The elections board decided unanimously last month that the operative working for Republican Mark Harris collected an unknown number of ballots that could have been altered and a new contest was needed.

Harris is not running again after what he thought was his narrow win in November’s election. Democrat Dan McCready is running again and faces no primary opponent.

The state elections board collected its total from estimates by elections directors in the eight counties that make up the district. The costs are for holding the unplanned elections, not employee salaries and other office operations. The projected costs include paying for poll workers, required legal notices in newspapers, ballot preparation and printing, postage, and polling place supplies and rental fees.

One Republican candidate said if no one snags 30 percent of the GOP vote in the May primary and he finishes second, he won’t ask for a primary runoff.

“I’ve pledged that I won’t do that because we need to face McCready in September and have a more equal election throughout the district instead of waiting until November where all the municipalities will be voting,” said Union County Commissioner and Republican congressional candidate Stony Rushing. “It will also save some costs.”

Union County would pay $600,000 if a second primary was required, but about $400,000 without one. Rushing said he’s going to ask the state legislature to reimburse his county’s costs for the re-do election. Mecklenburg County, the state’s most populous, would spend about $250,000 because only a portion is included in the congressional district.

The congressional district stretches from suburban Charlotte to suburban Fayetteville along the South Carolina border. It has been in GOP hands since 1963 and President Donald Trump won it by 12 percentage points in 2016.

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