What’s the political controversy in North Carolina’s 9th district?
North Carolina Republicans rallied behind 9th District congressional candidate Mark Harris on Monday ahead of a trial-like hearing on allegations of voter fraud that could nullify his victory.
Republicans asked state elections officials to certify Harris’s disputed election to Congress unless it finds that alleged irregularities would have changed the outcome.
Meanwhile the state board of elections Monday issued guidelines for the Jan. 11 hearing that will feature witnesses and cross-examinations by attorneys. The hearing will take place in the courtroom of the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh.
Harris’s victory over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th Congressional District has been clouded by a probe into allegations involving absentee ballots in Bladen County. The state board declined to certify Harris’s election and could order a new election.
The hearing will take place a week after a new, Democratic-controlled Congress takes over on Jan. 3. And two Democratic members of Congress from North Carolina said Monday they don’t expect Harris to be seated.
“I don’t believe he’ll be seated until and unless he’s certified,” U.S. Rep. David Price told the Observer. “It appears that it will not happen.”
And U.S. Rep. Alma Adams told the Observer, “We don’t know who to seat. There’s been too many irregularities in this election.”
A resolution signed by leaders of the state party and of the 9th District GOP criticized what they called a “lack of transparency” in the election probe.
“Absent clear and convincing evidence presented in public by the State Board of Elections that any alleged voting irregularities changed the outcome of the race or there is a substantial likelihood it could have been changed, the law requires Dr. Harris to be certified as the winner,” the resolution says. “The lack of transparency is concerning . . .
“Dr. Mark Harris is Congressman-Elect for the Ninth Congressional District. If the State Board is unable to provide evidence the alleged voting irregularities would have changed the outcome of the race, they should immediately certify the results of the . . . contest.”
In a statement, elections board spokesman Patrick Gannon said the state board’s “top priority is gathering evidence related to alleged fraud.”
“The State Board posts documents related to the investigation to this portal as they become available,” the spokesman said, “provided that their release is unlikely to interfere with the ongoing investigation.”
Party officials said the resolution was triggered by the Jan. 11 hearing date, which was set last week.
“The board of elections must show its hand immediately to justify further delay that would prevent the 9th District from being represented when the new Congress is sworn in,” N.C. GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse said Monday. “The people of the 9th are tired of waiting and should not have to wait any longer.”
The resolution also says that if early vote totals in Bladen County were leaked to one campaign before the election, “a new election is appropriate” in the district. That’s the same message Woodhouse and GOP Chair Robin Hayes and gave last week.
Harris did not return messages Monday. But in an interview last week with Charlotte’s WBTV, Harris acknowledged that he hired the man at the center of the election investigation, Bladen County operative McCrae Dowless.
One liberal group blasted the Republican resolution.
“North Carolina Republicans are further shredding their own credibility with a blatant call to reward election fraud,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for American Bridge. “It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad.”
In the WBTV interview, Harris said he wasn’t getting a lot of support from his party.