Tuesday, 18 December 2018 16:10

9th District Congressional seat will remain vacant until state certifies election results

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ROCKINGHAM — North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District could be left without representation in Washington for a undetermined amount of time.

The N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement announced Friday that it will hold a public hearing Jan. 11 on the investigation into voting irregularities in the district.

The problem: the U.S. House of Representatives convenes on Jan. 3.

According to the Committee on House Administration, if the office is still vacant when Congress is sworn in, the Clerk of the House will take over the office. Some of Rep. Robert Pittenger’s staff may stay on board for constituent services. If not, the clerk will hire a staff.

Earlier this month, the state board refused to certify the race results because of allegations of election fraud in Bladen County by someone working for the Mark Harris Campaign.

Less than 1,000 votes currently separate Harris, who defeated Pittenger in the Republican primary, and Democratic challenger Dan McCready. Libertarian Jeff Scott received 5,130 votes.

Media outlets report that commissioners in Bladen and Union counties, the only two counties that Harris won, have requested the board certify the results.

The 9th District also includes Richmond, Anson, Scotland, Robeson and parts of Mecklenburg and Cumberland counties, all of which went to McCready.

Monday, the state board announced the order of proceedings for the upcoming hearing.

Meanwhile the two main parties are exchanging barbs over the debacle.

On Monday, Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. GOP, tweeted: “Setting to the side whatever standard you use, (the state board) has yet to try and meet ANY standard. They should not expect the 9th Congressional district to accept it on faith and/or media reports. To block the 9th from being represented they should justify it with public evidence now.”

N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin fired back at Republicans.

““Only days after stating that they’d support a new election, Republicans resorted back to attacking a bipartisan investigation into serious and clear allegations of fraud to benefit Mark Harris,” Goodwin said in a statement. “This is an attempt to steal an election after being caught red-handed. It’s shameful, harmful to our democracy and North Carolina voters, and undermines the integrity of our elections.”

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Gov. Roy Cooper said he would veto House Bill 1029, which orders an new primary of the elections board orders a do-over. 

The primary would allow the Green and Constitution parties to field candidates.

The bill also reverts the administrative structure of the board to what it was in 2016 and makes changes to other elections, ethics and lobbying laws.

The governor said he would sign the bill if state lawmakers remove certain language, including a requirement elections officials to refer alleged campaign finance crimes to a separate commission, the AP reports.

The office of Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, says “failure to act is holding the entire Board of Elections hostage, including the NC-9 investigation, in his effort to achieve unchecked power to launch corrupt and unfounded partisan attacks on legislators."

"Governor Cooper laid bare what he's sought for two years: partisan weaponization of the Board of Elections' investigatory power,” said Patrick Ryan, a spokesman for Berger’s office. “His hand-picked chairman, Andy Penry, resigned in disgrace just weeks ago because of his blatant partisan activity.”

Ryan said Penry “tried to drag a cancer-stricken woman out of her hospital bed to testify at her son's Board of Elections hearing about a bogus 18-month old complaint which the Board hadn't even fully investigated.”

“The legislature will not allow the governor to use the partisan Board of Elections as a blunt instrument to hammer his political adversaries,” Ryan added.

The General Assembly is in the process of overturning Cooper’s veto of the Voter ID amendment, which was approved by voters in November.