Seating a representative becomes even murkier in congressional contest

Published 6:59 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Even if a new state Board of Elections orders a new election in North Carolina’s disputed 9th Congressional District, it could be months before it’s held.

That would leave the district’s constituents without representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The process seating a representative in the district got even more confused in recent days.

The district includes parts or whole counties of Mecklenburg, Anson, Union, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson, Bladen and Cumberland counties.

A planned Jan. 11 hearing by the state elections board won’t occur, after a three-judge federal panel declared the nine-member state board unconstitutional and dissolved it last month. Republican Mark Harris filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a Wake County judge to force the state elections board to declare him the winner. Harris held about a 900-vote lead against Democratic challenger Dan McCready in unofficial results in a race that includes an alleged scheme involving absentee ballots in Bladen County.

That allegation is that Harris staffer Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. conducted an illegal absentee ballot-harvesting operation in two counties in the state with the intention of swinging the absentee ballot vote in Harris’s favor.

Staff members with the state Board of Elections are continuing their investigation.

Meanwhile, Congress and the courts could order a new election, according to state elections officials. There is also a provision, in some cases, that the governor — under state law — could order a new congressional contest.

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, Harris contended the court’s dissolving of the state board could mean a long delay.

“There will be no state board authorized by statute to certify the results of the November 2018 election for many weeks,” Harris’s attorneys wrote.

Before the dissolution of the state board, the North Carolina Republican Party urged it to certify the results.

“We believe that, again, that I should be certified,” Harris said Thursday after his meeting with state board investigators. “We don’t believe that the number of ballots in question would change the outcome of this election.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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