Judge declines to certify Republican Mark Harris as victor in controversial 9th Congressional District

RALEIGH, N.C. -- A judge declined Tuesday to certify Republican Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th Congressional District election.

The judge said Harris' legal team did not prove that the North Carolina Board of Elections had a legal obligation to certify a winner of a contested election on a specific timeline.

Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready are in a battle months after Americans cast their ballots in the race. Harris had about 900 more votes than McCready, but investigators said absentee ballots in the district appeared suspicious.

Tuesday attorneys for both candidates explained to a judge why he should or should not step in and certify Harris as the winner. Ultimately, the judge decided Harris' team did not prove its case.

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A judge declined Tuesday to certify Republican Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th Congressional District election.

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin released the following statement after the ruling:

"From day one, North Carolina Democrats have maintained that we need a full investigation into Republican Mark Harris' efforts to silence voters across the Ninth district. We are pleased that Harris' frivolous request has been denied and that North Carolina can get back to investigating allegations of systematic electoral fraud committed on behalf of Harris' campaign. Only a full, public investigation can begin to repair the damage Mark Harris and North Carolina Republicans have inflicted on our state and our voters."

Harris' attorney, Alex Dale, argued the State Board of Election does have the right to investigate the election, but he said the board should have certified the election weeks ago.

"Dr. Mark Harris has asked for the investigation report to be released," Dale said. "He has asked for the investigation to go out. He wants it out to clear his name. Instead, we have been under a cloak of secrecy over what's being on, and it's outside of the statutory framework for certification."
Harris himself is not in the courtroom Tuesday. He said he is recovering after getting an infection.

In a statement, the State BOE said that only after a full hearing on the record will State Board members be able to make an informed decision on whether to certify a winner or order a new election.

"We look forward to providing a full accounting of what transpired once a Board is seated," said Kim Westbrook Strach, State Board executive director. "Public confidence in our elections system demands it."

Five members are expected to be appointed to the State Board on or after Jan. 31.

"Nothing about today's court hearing changes the fact that Congressman-Elect Dr. Mark Harris won the election," said NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes. "He received more legal votes and no public evidence has shown the outcome is in doubt. We are confident that Dr. Harris will be certified by the new State Board and will be seated in Washington."
Copyright © 2021 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.