President Trump with Mark Harris, the Republican candidate in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, in Charlotte on Oct. 26. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Opinion writer

President Trump and his kangaroo court — the Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity — never found evidence of widespread voter fraud, the sort of fraud by impersonation that the Republican Party’s voter-ID laws are supposed to combat. That’s not for lack of trying, but as we’ve seen in study after study, voter-ID laws are a solution in search of a problem — and a means of deterring traditionally Democratic constituencies from voting.

Republicans cried foul when they thought they might lose races for the Senate and the governor’s office in Florida (which they did not), as well as the Senate race in Arizona (which they did), but again, no evidence of intentional wrongdoing was found.

As the tabulation in the California 21st Congressional District drags on, Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) added to the trend of Republicans undermining the legitimacy of elections by declaring, "We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race. This election system they have — I can’t begin to understand what ‘ballot harvesting’ is.” Actually, they are counting every vote, which is neither bizarre nor hard to understand. (Thankfully, no one is paying much attention to the outgoing speaker who presided over what looks to be a 40-seat Republican loss.)

Now, however, we have a big, ugly and blatant example of what is very likely election fraud. And strangely, Trump and the rest of the Republicans are silent, which is hardly surprising given that the alleged fraud may have put Republican Mark Harris in the House to represent North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

The Post reported on a GOP operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, who allegedly ran an operation to collect absentee ballots (which they are not permitted to do) and discard them.

On Monday, the board issued a subpoena to the Harris campaign, according to campaign attorney John Branch. The board is expected to issue one soon to Red Dome Group, a GOP consulting firm based in the suburbs of Charlotte that hired Dowless, according to two people familiar with the probe. . . . 

Investigators with the bipartisan state elections board — which last week voted unanimously to delay certifying the race — have identified hundreds of potential witnesses to interview, many of them voters whose absentee ballots were never turned in, according to the people familiar with the probe. That raises the possibility of a weeks-long investigation and an uncertain start date for the next congressman from the 9th District.

The absentee ballots, wouldn’t you know, are disproportionately from African American neighborhoods.

Fortunately, the state’s bipartisan election board has not yet certified the result and will hold a hearing on December 21. If this drags on, as it almost certainly will, Democrats may refuse to seat Harris, an unusual but not unprecedented move.

There are a few points to underscore here.

First, Republicans have done untold damage to the integrity of elections by their false claims of fraud; and now, when the real thing appears to have occurred, the boys who cried wolf are nowhere to be seen. This is the most blatant and arguably serious example of putting party above country, and above democracy. You have to question whether a party that is uncommitted to preserving the credibility and integrity of elections is fit to govern.

Second, with control of committees and the agenda in the House, Democrats are well-positioned to move forward with House Resolution 1, which just so happens to be about voting access, corruption and campaign finance. Public hearings on the actual impediments to voting (as we saw in Georgia with voter-roll purges, exact match rules and long lines at polling places in African American neighborhoods ), as well as concrete evidence of fraud (as will be presented in North Carolina) should inform the debate. Automatic voter registration should address some issues, but the apparent shenanigans in North Carolina and Georgia during this election cycle are a giant advertisement for updating of the Voting Rights Act and the reinstitution of the pre-clearance measures for those states with a history of voting violations.

Third, if Harris’s apparent victory is voided, the Democratic House majority will assure he is not seated. But do we have any doubt that if Republicans were in the majority they’d find some rationale for sitting a Republican, no matter what evidence was presented and how many African American votes were discarded? If Republicans want to know why they are distrusted and reviled by so many nonwhite voters, they should look in the mirror. If you won’t stand up for certain voters' most fundamental right — voting — why in the world would they trust you to look out for any of their other interests?

Read more:

Dana Milbank: The GOP turns to preserving its corpse — by thievery

The Post’s View: The North Carolina midterm debacle shows us where the real threat to elections lies

Paul Waldman: Looks like an actual case of election fraud has occurred. Guess who’s responsible.