North Carolina governor to name interim elections panel as state board dissolves

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said he plans to install an interim panel of state elections officials as the state elections board dissolved on Friday under court order.

The interim panel would operate until Jan. 31, when a new state law remaking North Carolina's elections and ethics boards takes effect, The Charlotte Observer reported.

State lawmakers voted on Thursday to override a veto of that measure by Cooper, who argued that the bill would increase confidentiality requirements for campaign finance investigations.

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Still, the dissolution of the state elections board at noon on Friday carries sweeping repercussions for an ongoing fraud investigation in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District that has left the fate of a House seat hanging in the balance.

Republican Mark HarrisMark HarrisNunes's 2018 Dem challenger launches voting rights group NC election board investigated GOP operative at center of fraud probe as far back as 2010: report Republican in controversial NC race sets off fire alarm trying to evade reporters MORE currently leads Democrat Dan McCready in that race by 905 votes.

But allegations that a contractor for Harris's campaign paid workers to collect voters' absentee ballots in rural Bladen County and neighboring Robeson County prompted the elections board to refuse to certify the results and launch an investigation into the claims.

Harris filed an emergency petition on Friday morning urging the board to quickly certify him as the winner in the House race. But with the noon deadline looming, the board did not heed that request.

Before it dissolved on Friday, the board had been set to hold a hearing on the evidence in the case on Jan. 11.

The board clarified Friday that panel staff members will "continue to actively investigate 9th Congressional District irregularities and perform all other elections-related functions."

The dissolution of the elections board was not related to the current controversy in North Carolina's 9th district, but rather stemmed from a years-long legal battle over its constitutionality. 

Earlier this year, a panel of judges ruled that the board must be split into a five-member elections board and an eight-member ethics board. 

But the judges granted multiple stays in that case that allowed the elections board to continue operations. On Thursday, however, the three-judge panel rejected a request to extend the board's existence.

The panel dissolved officially at noon on Friday. 

In addition to restructuring the elections board, the measure approved by the North Carolina General Assembly on Thursday would require a new primary if election officials determine a new election is necessary in the House race in the 9th District.

The seat is the last undecided House race of the 2018 cycle. But the uncertainty over the planned Jan. 11 hearing and the elections board could leave the race hanging in the balance for weeks.

So far, Democrats have picked up 40 seats in the chamber, handing them a majority when the new session of Congress begins on Jan. 3.

-- Updated at 1:44 p.m.