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Harris Meets With Elections Board Investigators, Sues In State Court

Jessa O'Connor / WFAE


Republican Mark Harris interviewed with state investigators in Raleigh Thursday for two hours as the state examines allegations of ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District.

Harris addressed reporters in Raleigh afterward, saying he was happy to cooperate with the investigation but believes he should still be certified as the winner — even as the investigation continues.

“We committed early on that we certainly want to help in any way we can with any investigation to get to the bottom of it, but we believe that, again, that I should be certified,” Harris said. “We don’t believe that the number of ballots in question would change the outcome of this election. And we believe, again, that that is the standard, ultimately, that the board of elections looks to.”

Workers associated with Harris’ campaign have said they were instructed by McCrae Dowless to collect absentee ballots from residents in Bladen and Robeson Counties. That’s an illegal activity known as “ballot harvesting.”

Harris has denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, an attorney for Harris submitted a lawsuit Thursday morning asking a Wake County Superior Court to require that the 9th District's results be certified. Unofficial results show Harris leading Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

Harris’ lawyers have said that refusing to certify the results of the race is problematic for the constituents in the district.

“If we don’t do something, the people of the 9th Congressional District will go on without representation for a significant period of time,” Harris’ attorney David Freedman told WBTV.

But the investigation into allegations of election fraud has been halted due to instability with the state board of elections.

The elections board was dissolved late last month, following a law passed by the General Assembly and a ruling by a three-judge panel deeming the board unconstitutional. The most recent law requires that a new, five-person elections board be created by the end of January.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had asked both parties to put forward nominees for a temporary board immediately, so the board could hold an evidentiary hearing on the ballot tampering allegations. According to Cooper, the Republican Party had refused to put forward nominees, halting the governor’s ability to assemble an interim board.

Republicans have said an interim board would be illegal, and will not nominate members to it.

Before disbanding, the previous board had refused to certify results from Harris’ with McCready while the investigation continued. The elections board staff said Wednesday that it’s continuing the investigation, but that any hearings must be postponed until a new board is created.

New members of Congress have been seated today. But while the allegations of ballot fraud continue to be investigated, the U.S. House seat for North Carolina’s 9th district will remain empty.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.