Judge denies request from candidate to certify race for NC-09

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A Wake County judge rejected a request Tuesday afternoon from Republican Mark Harris who sought to be declared the winner in the race for the state’s 9th Congressional district, while an investigation into fraud allegations is still underway.

“We’re disappointed for Dr. Harris and we’re disappointed for the voters of the ninth Congressional district,” said David Freedman, an attorney for Harris, following Tuesday’s hearing.

Harris sought to have Judge Paul Ridgeway order the state’s Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to certify him as the winner.

Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. However, the board declined to certify a winner last year after learning of irregularities with absentee ballots in Bladen County and surrounding communities.

In a separate legal battle, a three-judge panel dissolved the elections board last year. A state law calls for new members to be appointed after Jan. 31.

After that happens, the board can consider what investigators have found. Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the NCSBE, said after Tuesday’s court hearing that her agency plans to hold its own hearing that will be open to the public. It’s not clear how soon that will happen.

“We’re gonna be ready to go. We’re not gonna be taking any actions to delay that,” said Freedman.

During Tuesday’s court hearing, attorney Amar Majmundar, who represented the board of elections, urged the judge to reject Harris’s request to intervene.

“This is not over. This election is not over. There is no final determination. There’s an ongoing investigation,” he said. He went on to say this is “an investigation that, and I’m trying to be careful judge, may very well reveal evidence sufficient to call into question the margin that currently exists between the candidates. And that investigation may be the springboard for prosecution.”

Freedman, an attorney for Harris pushed back on that when speaking to reporters.

“I’ve not seen the report. I’m not willing to draw any conclusions from the report. I don’t think anyone who’s not seen the report should draw any conclusions from it,” he said.

Aaron Simpson, a spokesman for McCready, said, “But, we do know that election fraud took place. We do know by some accounts it was substantial. And, that’s worth looking into.”

The U.S. House also has authority to deem the seat vacant and trigger a new election. Democratic leaders already have said they don’t believe Harris should be seated while the investigation unfolds.

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