NC 9th district: Republican candidate Mark Harris petitions for certification before big shakeup for Board of Elections

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Imagine a court case that gets a new judge and jury in the middle of a trial. That's kind of the current situation we're in with regards to North Carolina's uncertified election.

Here's what's going on:

The Republican candidate currently leading the contested election in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District is petitioning the soon-to-be-disbanded North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement for a swift certification.

Attorneys for Mark Harris write "The State Board has failed to specifically outline any facts to support its decision not to certify the election results in the 9th District other than its references to 'irregularities.'"

The petition, however, has only hours to remain relevant, as the current makeup of the nine-member board is disbanding as of noon Friday. Per court order -- and new state law -- North Carolina elections will instead by managed and safeguarded by a five-member Board of Elections and a separate Board of Ethics, with all members nominated by Governor Roy Cooper.

"The citizens of the 9th District have an expectation to be represented when Congress convenes on January 3rd," the petition asserts.

"The North Carolina Republican Party has encouraged the Mark Harris campaign to take immediate legal action in federal court to force the State of North Carolina to do what it is required to legally, constitutionally, and morally do: certify Dr. Mark Harris the winner of North Carolina's 9th Congressional District election," North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement. "The events of the last 24 hours make clear Mark Harris is the Congressman-Elect and should be seated in Congress on January 3, 2019."

"Republicans are actively obstructing an investigation into electoral fraud, all to steal the election," NC Democratic Party Chair Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. "This is alarming and unconscionable and a message to every North Carolina voter that it doesn't matter if you were defrauded and your vote silenced, Republicans would rather have power than faithfully represent you."

The race has been mired in controversy over allegations of voter fraud and irregularities related to absentee ballots.

Harris, on Dec. 7, even said he would "wholeheartedly support" a new election if a state investigation "finds proof of illegal activity."

Also on Friday, Gov. Cooper sent letters to state leaders of both Democrats and Republicans for names to be considered for a temporary five-member Board of Elections to continue the probe into how absentee ballots were gathered.

In his letter, Cooper cites "the complicated nature and importance of the decisions concerning the Ninth Congressional District Election," in nominating the temporary board, and will be replaced by a "reconstituted" Board of Elections on Jan. 31.

The Republican-led General Assembly earlier this month passed House Bill 1029, a bill which restores a separate State Board of Elections from the Board of Ethics, with members of both being nominated by the sitting governor.

Republicans tried combining the boards and reducing the governor's role in a 2016 Special Legislative Session after Cooper's election win over incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory. Then Gov.-Elect Cooper sued and ultimately won in court -- many times -- and a GOP-sponsored constitutional amendment failed to keep the changes.

Still, HB 1029 enacts significant changes, including mandates for "confidential" investigations related to alleged campaign finance violations, and limits on what investigations can be initiated.
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