By Erin Smith
A Wake County Superior Court Judge refused to certify the 9th US Congressional District race on Tuesday afternoon. Judge Paul Ridgeway said there was no basis for the court to step in and certify the results.
Judge Ridgeway rejected Republican Mark Harris’ lawsuit against the North Carolina State Board of Elections, according to reports. Neither Harris nor Democratic candidate Dan McCready attended the hearing.
Judge Ridgeway writes in his opinion, “Whether the investigation will yield conclusions that the alleged fraud altered the outcome of the election or tainted the public’s confidence in the election results remains an open question. However, the mere existence of that open question, and reports of widespread fraud, more than satisfy the “may have changed the result of an election” qualifier of N.C.G.S. § 163A-1180.”
Patrick Gannon, a spokesman with the North Carolina State Board of Elections said, “State Board investigators continue to thoroughly investigate irregularities, including absentee-by-mail voting irregularities, in the 2018 general election. Elections staff are preparing for a public evidentiary hearing to give North Carolina voters a full picture of the issues that affected that contest.”
Gannon continued, “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.”
The results of the 9th Congressional District race have been mired in controversy after allegations surfaced of absentee ballot fraud and election irregularities. The North Carolina State Board of Elections also told the Bladen County Board of Elections not to issue a certificate of election in the Bladen County Commissioner District 3 race and the Bladen County Soil and Water District Board race.
An investigation is ongoing into the irregularities. The US Committee on House Administration has contacted the North Carolina State Board of Elections about the possibility of stepping in with regard to the investigation. A letter was sent to NC State Board of Elections Director Kimberly Strach last week seeking notes and other investigative materials pertaining to the investigation.
Republican Harris leads Democrat McCready by a margin of 905 votes in the 9th US House district race, according to unofficial results published on the NC State Board of Elections website. The NC State Board of Elections was dissolved by a three judge panel on December 28, 2018. A new five member panel will be installed on January 31, 2019.