Harris files request for court order demanding he be certified in 9th district

Harris files request for court order demanding he be certified in 9th district

RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - As the 116th U.S. House of Representatives was sworn in without someone from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, Mark Harris is once again demanding he be seated.

On Nov. 30, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted 7-2 to not certify Harris, who unofficially leads the race for the seat against Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, as the winner of the contest.

The reason? Claims of absentee by mail ballot irregularities, and claims of fraudulent activities in Bladen and Robeson counties.

The clerk for the U.S. House noted in her opening remarks Thursday that while her office had received 434 certificates of election, she had not received one from North Carolina’s 9th.

Without a certificate of election, the House will not seat Harris or anyone else.

Harris has asked the Wake County Superior Court for relief, filing a Writ of Mandamus and requesting the court force the state board to certify the race.

However, there is no NCSBE currently seated after a three-judge panel of the same court ruled the previous nine-member board unconstitutional, and declined to extend its operation past Dec. 28.

Harris references that vacancy and the court order in his writ, saying because the board was found unconstitutional, its action to delay certification of the race goes against state law. Additionally, the writ argues because there is a vacancy, the court can require NCSBE Executive Director Kimberly Strach to issue the certificate of election.

The request for a ruling does include a paragraph saying the Harris team will not cease cooperating with the investigation into election fraud, but that Harris should be seated in Congress in the meantime.

Harris and his attorney also met with investigators at the NCSBE on Thursday. The meeting lasted for two hours, and Strach stated afterward the board appreciates Harris' cooperation.

During a brief press conference after the meeting, Harris said he wants the state to see the investigation through, but he was “left with no choice” but to file the motion today.

“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," he said. "But we believe, again, that I should be certified. We don’t believe that the number of ballots in question would change the outcome of this election.”

McCready responded on Twitter Thursday afternoon, calling Harris' actions “obstruction.”

Harris is one of the central figures in the election fraud investigation. The NCSBE issued a subpoena for around 140,000 pages of documents from Harris' campaign. So far, the campaign has provided just under 400 pages. Harris is also meeting with board investigators Thursday.

The campaign paid Red Dome Group, a conservative consulting firm, and associated contractors over $527,000 during the 2018 election cycle. In turn, the company paid McCrae Dowless, the core person of interest in the state’s investigation.

Dowless and his associates are accused of harvesting, tampering with and even throwing away absentee by mail ballots.

Legal experts are unsure of the process moving forward, especially as Democratic U.S. House leaders have said they will not seat Harris while the question of his legitimacy remains.

The 116th Congress convened at noon Thursday. It is unclear what, if any, action it will immediately take with regard to the 9th district.

According to political columnist Michael Bitzer, the House has several options. Even if the court were to order the election certified, the House still has jurisdiction over its members, and could call for a new election.

House leaders could also send the matter back to the state, but a new state board of elections is not scheduled to be appointed until at least Jan. 31.

In the meantime, constituents of the 9th district still have some representation in Washington. Senator Thom Tillis sent out a notice Thursday afternoon that those in the 9th should come to his office if they have any questions about federal programs, such as Social Security or Medicare.

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