NC judge rules against certifying results in disputed House race

NC judge rules against certifying results in disputed House race

A judge in North Carolina ruled on Tuesday that he would not order the executive director of the state elections board to certify Republican Mark HarrisMark HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate Why my American Indian tribe voted Republican in NC's special election North Carolina race raises 2020 red flags for Republicans, Democrats MORE as the winner of the disputed U.S. House in the state's 9th Congressional District.

During a Tuesday hearing in Raleigh, Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway heard arguments from lawyers of Harris and Democrat Dan McCready about the Republican’s lawsuit which sought to have him certified as the winner despite an ongoing investigation into alleged elections fraud.

"Certification is not appropriate until the investigation is concluded,” Ridgeway said when delivering his ruling.

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Harris leads McCready by 905 votes, but the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) declined to certify the race and has been investigating an alleged absentee ballot fraud scheme.

During the hearing, Ridgeway said it’s “extremely unusual” for a court to intervene and order certification of an election.

“It’s highly unusual for a court to step in for certification. It’s an extraordinary step to ask a court to do," Ridgeway said.

The NCSBE has been investigating allegations of elections fraud. The board had been ruled unconstitutional and was recently dissolved, which delayed a public evidentiary hearing that was scheduled for Jan. 11.

The new board will be appointed on Jan. 31 and will then likely hold an evidentiary hearing and decide whether to certify those results.

Harris’s attorneys argued that there is a “mandatory timeline” for certification, but also noted that Harris still supports the investigation into fraud claims. But they argued that evidence has not been provided to show that any fraud would have changed the outcome of the election.

Harris’s lawyers also argued that “speculation” about what the U.S. House of Representatives might do should not hold up certification of the race.

House Democrats have suggested that they might investigate claims in the 9th District race.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Amar Majmundar argued that Harris delayed the state elections board’s investigation by not meeting with investigators until after the board dissolved.

Majmundar also said the evidence shows that the 905-vote margin is in question.

After the hearing, David Freedman, a criminal defense attorney representing Harris, said his team remains undecided on whether to appeal the judge's ruling on Tuesday.

Freedman said that they're currently prepping for the state elections board's evidentiary hearing, according to WSOC-TV.

 

 

The North Carolina GOP also responded to Tuesday's ruling, arguing that "nothing in today's court hearing changes the fact that [Harris] won the election."
 
"We are confident that Dr. Harris will be certified by the new State Board and will be seated in Washington," NC GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) released a statement applauding the court's ruling. 

“We are pleased that Harris’ frivolous request has been denied and that North Carolina can get back to investigating allegations of systematic electoral fraud committed on behalf of Harris’ campaign," NCDP Chairman Wayne Goodwin said.

-- Updated at 2:08 p.m.