Wednesday, 02 January 2019 18:20

9th District hearing postponed

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ROCKINGHAM — A resolution to North Carolina’s disputed 9th Congressional District race is even farther from coming to fruition.

The N.C. State Board of Elections announced late Wednesday afternoon that a hearing scheduled for Jan. 11 has been postponed and the investigation into voting irregularities will continue.

“State Board staff will continue to interview witnesses and pursue leads as part of this investigation,” Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the board, said in a statement. “This agency remains steadfast in its obligation to ensure confidence in the elections process.”

A three-judge panel last week dissolved the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and a new board won’t be seated until Jan. 31, the Charlotte Observer reports.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had wanted to create an interim board, but the state Republican Party refused to submit names for appointment.

"The North Carolina Republican Party takes their obligations under the law and state constitution seriously,” GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement Wednesday. “Our unwillingness to participate in the creation of an unlawful 'interim' State Board of Elections results from a desire to ensure that any future investigation surrounding the Ninth Congressional District election is open, fair, and transparent, and not tainted by actions taken by an illegal board. 

“The unlawful suggestion by the governor only served to further erode public confidence in our election system,” Hayes added. “Governor Cooper earns no gold stars for being embarrassed into following the letter of the law."

Republican candidate Mark Harris is slated to meet with board staffers this week.

The now-dissolved board failed to certify Harris’ 905-vote victory over Democratic challenger Dan McCready because of accusations of absentee ballot farming in Bladen County.

“I look forward to sitting down with the staff from the State Board of Elections later this week and answering any and all questions they have,” Harris said in a statement Monday. “I have always taken great pride in being open and transparent. While I plan to fully comply with the ongoing review process, I am eager to be certified so I can go to Congress and be a voice for the 9th District.”

Even if Harris comes out on top following the investigation, he may face another hurdle.

House. The Carolina Journal previously reported that incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, has said the new Congress — which convenes Thursday — won’t seat Harris and that the House may order its own investigation.

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.

The board could also order a new election, which would include a primary allowing all five state-recognized political parties to participate.

The outgoing Pittenger has said he will not run again in a new primary, according to the Charlotte Observer.