Campaign Watch: Congressional Seat Still Open

Campaign Watch: Congressional Seat Still Open

The new Congress has taken office in Washington, but North Carolina’s Ninth District seat remains open — the last unsettled House contest in the nation. With a likely special election later this year, the district could still send another pro-environment leader to the House in Dan McCready.

As of January 7, multiple factors have combined to leave the contest for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District undecided, more than two months after election day:

  • The state elections board refused to certify the election of Mark Harris despite his narrow lead (about 900 votes) after tallies were complete, because of unfolding evidence of systematic fraud in the handling of absentee ballots in two counties within the district.
  • That board twice postponed scheduled hearings in the case while evidence collection and interviews continued. A hearing was set for January 11, but it has been cancelled, due to the dissolution of the elections board itself. The board was dissolved by court order effective December 28.
  • That court order was entered by the special judicial panel appointed by the state Supreme Court Chief Justice to hear the constitutionality challenge brought against the appointment process for the state elections board. The governor challenged the law, and the court panel ruled for the governor. The panel twice delayed the effective date of its order dissolving the board in order to allow it to complete its investigation of fraud in the Ninth District. It refused to delay the order a third time. However, the newest law restructuring the board yet again does not take effect until January 31.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he would appoint an interim board to continue the process of deciding the Ninth District case, and asked both major state political parties for nominations. He was acting under the old elections board law which had been in effect for decades prior to 2017. However, the state Republican Party refused to nominate its two members, and declared it would sue to challenge any interim board. Cooper dropped the plan, as it would clearly still have been in litigation through the January 31 effective date of the new law.
  • The old elections board’s staff continue to investigate the Ninth District fraud case. However, they cannot hold hearings or compel witness cooperation in the absence of a legal elections board.
  • Mark Harris, the candidate narrowly ahead in the unofficial count, has asked the Wake County Superior Court to order that his election be certified. Thus far, the court has not done so.
  • Democratic leaders of the new U.S. House of Representatives have said that the House will not seat anyone from the Ninth District until the pending fraud investigation is concluded. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House is the final arbiter of the qualifications of its members, and may decline to seat a contestant whom the House concludes has not been legally elected.
  • Dan McCready, the candidate narrowly trailing in the unofficial vote count, has withdrawn his concession and resumed active preparation and fundraising for an anticipated special election. McCready is supported by the national League of Conservation Voters (LCV). LCV’s GiveGreen fund is again actively accepting donations for the McCready campaign.

CIB will update this story as new developments warrant.

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