Judge declines to certify North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race amid fraud investigation

A North Carolina judge on Tuesday denied a request from Republican Mark Harris' campaign to certify the results in the disputed North Carolina 9th District race.

A North Carolina judge on Tuesday denied a request from Republican Mark Harris’ campaign to certify the results in the disputed North Carolina 9th District race.

After the election in November, Harris led Democratic candidate Dan McCready by 905 votes. The state board of elections has refused to certify the results as it investigates allegations that an operative working for a firm hired by Harris illegally collected absentee ballots.

The investigation and ensuing legal battle have left the results of last year’s House race uncertain, with no official winner from the November election. The judge’s decision on Tuesday will keep the situation unresolved while the matter continues to be reviewed.

Attorneys for Harris asked the court to order executive director Kim Strach of the now-dissolved North Carolina Board of Elections to certify the election results while the investigation continues. Harris and state Republicans have argued that there is no evidence of enough disputed ballots to change the outcome of the election.

Judge Paul Ridgeway said during his ruling Tuesday that certification was not appropriate because the elections board has no obligation to certify an election before resolving a legal protest.

“Why are we looking at a dramatic intervention of one branch of government into another branch of government?” the judge said during Tuesday’s hearing.

The bipartisan board dissolved in December 2018 without certifying the results. The remaining board staff are still investigating the absentee ballot fraud allegations. A new board is expected to be appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on or after January 31, per state law. The board is expected to either certify the results or call for a new election after holding an evidentiary hearing.

Ridgeway said that new board will be in the best position to conclude the investigation and decide the outcome of the race.

“We look forward to providing a full accounting of what transpired once a Board is seated,” said Strach, the state board’s executive director. “Public confidence in our elections system demands it.”

Harris did not appear in court Tuesday and is being treated by doctors for an infection, according to his team.

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