The newly elected House of Representatives will meet for the first time later this week. When they do, it seems North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District seat will be empty. The state’s 9th District election remains undecided, with allegations of election fraud marring the close race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. According to uncertified returns, Harris leads the race by 905 votes.
This week, the State Board of Elections said it will postpone a January 11th evidentiary hearing on the situation, following a state court case that broke up the board, according to the Washington Post. Harris’ campaign now says they will go to the Wake County Superior Court and ask for their win to be certified despite the unresolved allegations, “while still allowing for a full and thorough investigation of any concerns or irregularities.”
“We are hopeful that we can get this resolved as soon as possible so the 9th District can be represented in Congress,” Jason Williams, Harris campaign manager, told the Post.
Harris originally said he didn’t know about any wrongdoing on the part of Leslie McCrae Dowless, the political operative who seemingly broke the law in his handling of absentee ballots in Bladen County. Later, others reported that Harris had in fact asked for Dowless to work on his campaign after he found out that Dowless helped another candidate win a race through questionable means.
According to his campaign, Harris will not go to Washington, D.C. this week. House Democrats say they will bar him from taking office until an investigation into the circumstances of his election is complete.
The dissolution of the North Carolina Board of Elections stems from an unrelated issue—a court case that ruled the make up of the board was unconstitutional. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper was ready to appoint an interim board, which would include three Democrats and two Republicans. But the GOP refused to provide a list of names for the board, leaving Cooper with few options.
“Quickly rooting out real election fraud should be a bipartisan effort,” Cooper said in a statement. “Today in North Carolina, we have a Board of Elections with five empty chairs because Republicans are blocking the way.”
North Carolina Republican Party Chair Robin Hayes said in a statement that the refusal to participate in the board “results from a desire to ensure that any future investigation surrounding the Ninth Congressional District election is open, fair, and transparent, and not tainted by actions taken by an illegal board.” Hayes previously attributed the allegations of voter fraud to Democratic political smears.
The Elections Board staff are continuing to investigate the race, and say their previous subpoenas are still legally binding, despite the board’s dissolution.
“State Board staff will continue to interview witnesses and pursue leads as part of this investigation,” Kim Westbrook Strach, the board’s executive director, told the Post. “This agency remains steadfast in its obligation to ensure confidence in the elections process.”