NC Judge Refuses to Name Winner in Undecided Race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – A North Carolina judge on Tuesday denied a request by a Republican candidate to finally be certified the winner of the still unresolved 9th Congressional District race.

In this Nov. 7, 2018, file photo, Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

Mark Harris, a pastor who defeated the Republican incumbent in the primary, appeared to win by 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready in the heated contested to fill the 9th District post, one of the state’s 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But as accusations of absentee-ballot fraud allegedly committed by a Harris campaign operative emerged, the election results are still uncertified.   

At a hearing Tuesday, Harris asked Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to declare him the winner and allow him to be seated.

North Carolina Republicans have argued constituents in the 9th District urgently need representation in the House.

But Judge Ridgeway ruled from the bench Tuesday that Harris will not be seated, finding that state officials have no obligation to certify an election before resolvinga legal challenge or investigation.

The bipartisan North Carolina Board of Elections refused to seat Harris, citing “irregularities” in absentee-ballot votes that were counted in rural Bladen and Robeson counties.

Several sworn affidavits submitted later claimed people working for a member of Harris’ get-out-the-vote initiative, McCrae Dowless, collected hundreds of unsealed ballots – a practice that is illegal under state law.  

During the investigation into these accounts, the North Carolina Board of Elections dissolved under a court order in late December, hours after Harris’ lawyers petitioned the board to certify his win.

A new board is expected to be appointed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper by Jan. 31.

“We are confident Pastor Harris won, will be certified and will be seated,” Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in a statement.

Hayes and other North Carolina Republicans – including Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state’s GOP – assert there is not enough public evidence to keep the outcome of the 9th District race in doubt.

But Harris’ opponent, McCready, called for a complete investigation.

“Today’s hearing won’t change the fact that the Harris campaign stole the votes of countless North Carolinians and the people still don’t have answers,” McCready said in a statement. “The people deserve a full investigation and we will demand nothing less.”

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