RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied a petition from Republican Mark Harris for a Writ of Mandamus, a request asking the court to force the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to certify him as the winner of the contest, during a hearing Tuesday.
Ridgeway said that Harris' legal team failed to show all on all counts in requirements for a Writ of Mandamus. He also stated that the State Board of Elections is in the best position to continue the investigation and rule on the certification.
In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon following the ruling, the State Board of Elections said investigators are continuing to investigate voting irregularities, including absentee-by-mail voting irregularities, in the 2018 general election.
“Elections staff are preparing for a public evidentiary hearing to give North Carolina voters a full picture of the issues that affected that contest,” the statement continued. “Only after a full hearing on the record will State Board members be able to make an informed decision on whether to certify a winner or order a new election.”
Five members are expected to be appointed to the State Board on or after Jan. 31.
“We look forward to providing a full accounting of what transpired once a Board is seated,” said Kim Westbrook, executive director of the State Board. “Public confidence in our elections system demands it.”
Harris has an unofficial lead of 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready, but the state board refused to certify the win at its Nov. 30 meeting with a 7 to 2 vote.
In the weeks since, more reports of absentee by mail ballot irregularities have surfaced, but the state board of elections was dissolved, leaving the future of the investigation — and a seat in congress — in limbo.
Democratic leaders in congress have said they will not seat Harris, especially if he has no certificate of election. Others have said even if the state does certify the election, that the House could still refuse to seat him, and launch its own investigation.
Harris claims in his petition that he has a right to be certified, because the board has not provided evidence of election fraud, among other arguments.
Attorneys for McCready and the NCSBE refuted that claim, and have filed motions to dismiss.
Neither Harris or McCready attended the hearing Tuesday in person with Harris citing an ongoing illness as the reason for his absence.
If the judge granted Harris' request for a Writ of Mandamus, the NCSBE would not be able to immediately issue a certificate of election, as a new board will not take over until Jan. 31. Legal experts also suggested McCready and the NCSBE would have likely appealed the decision to a higher court and ask for an immediate stay.
At a press conference Monday, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said if the judge rules against Harris' request, they will deal with the situation then.