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With Voter Fraud Probe Underway, Dan Bishop Says He Wants To Keep Elections Board Intact

Zuri Berry

The vice chair of North Carolina's Senate Select Committee on Elections said legislators will seek to extend the life of the state's elections and ethics enforcement board past its court-ordered expiration Monday. That comes as the board weighs allegations of potential voter fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties concerning absentee by mail ballots. 

The elections board has now twice declined to certify the results of the 9th District congressional race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. Harris leads McCready by 905 votes. 

State Sen. Dan Bishop, the vice chair of the elections committee in the General Assembly and a Republican representing Mecklenburg County, said in a statement that legislators will seek to negotiate with Gov. Roy Cooper about an extension.

"With a congressional race tied up in controversy and voter ID implementation set to begin, now is no time for uncertainty over whether the Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement exists," Bishop said. "If employees even show up to work on Monday, it's unclear if they can be paid or whether their service during this period would count toward their pensions. And the legal force of the Board's rulings will be called into question by affected persons, which is a recipe for disaster."

A judge ruled in October that the Republican-led General Assembly went too far in making changes to the appointment process for the board and its makeup. Previously, the elections and ethics boards were separate entities. In a special session after Cooper's election in 2016, and prior to his taking office, Republicans merged the five-member board of elections with the eight-member state ethics commission. That led to legal challenges by Cooper. 

It's unclear what will happen with the certification of the 9th District congressional race after Monday, but the elections board says it will hold a public hearing on or before Dec. 21 to discuss the allegations in Bladen and Robeson counties. Harris, who has already taken part in orientation as a new member of Congress, is slated to be sworn into office Jan. 3. 

Republican State Rep. David Lewis, the chairman of the House Elections and Ethics Law Committee and co-chair of the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee, blasted the board in a separate statement Friday afternoon. 

"I am extremely concerned about the severe lack of transparency by the Governor's Board of Elections," Lewis said. "The people have been given no information beyond cryptic sentences as to why a congressional race has not be certified.

"This cannot-and will not stand," Lewis continued. "The Governor has won legal arguments for control of the board in court. With that control comes accountability. This legislature retains significant statutory and constitutional oversight authority to ensure that his control is not being abused for political gain. We will use that authority."