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North Carolina: Let ballot probe proceed despite GOP lawsuit

January 14, 2019
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FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2018 file photo Republican Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. The North Carolina board investigating allegations of ballot fraud in a still-unresolved congressional race between Harris and Democrat Dan McCready could be disbanded Friday, Dec. 28 under a state court ruling in a protracted legal battle about how the panel operates. The state Elections Board has refused to certify the race between Harris and McCready while it investigates absentee ballot irregularities in the congressional district stretching from the Charlotte area through several counties to the east. Harris holds a slim lead in unofficial results, but election officials are looking into criminal allegations against an operative hired by the Harris campaign. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
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FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2018 file photo Republican Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. The North Carolina board investigating allegations of ballot fraud in a still-unresolved congressional race between Harris and Democrat Dan McCready could be disbanded Friday, Dec. 28 under a state court ruling in a protracted legal battle about how the panel operates. The state Elections Board has refused to certify the race between Harris and McCready while it investigates absentee ballot irregularities in the congressional district stretching from the Charlotte area through several counties to the east. Harris holds a slim lead in unofficial results, but election officials are looking into criminal allegations against an operative hired by the Harris campaign. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A judge should let a ballot fraud investigation play out in the nation’s last undecided congressional race despite a Republican candidate’s lawsuit demanding immediate victory, especially since Congress may ultimately decide the winner, attorneys representing North Carolina’s elections agency said Monday.

State attorneys were responding to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Republican Mark Harris, who narrowly led Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District race before the investigation started.

Attorney General Josh Stein’s office said the judge should dismiss Harris’ lawsuit rather than declare him the winner because the U.S. House indicated it’s also going to look into allegations that mail-in ballots could have been altered or discarded by a Harris subcontractor.

Harris “suffers no harm from delayed certification by the State Board of Elections given that the House of Representatives is not inclined to seat him, no matter the outcome” of the litigation, state attorneys said.

The elections board is doing its duty by investigating to assure that the election was held without taint of fraud, corruption or irregularities that may have changed the result, state lawyers said.

But Harris, in additional court filings, claims he has a clear legal right to be certified as the winner. He also wants a judge to require that the elections board immediately release what its investigation has uncovered so far.

“Without those findings, the cloud of suspicion surrounding both the Ninth District election and Dr. Harris’ good name — a cloud entirely of the State Board’s making — will persist,” the Republican’s attorneys said.

McCready’s attorneys also wrote to the court, saying that the contest’s conclusion is being held up because a court last month disbanded the old elections board. The court had decided the GOP-led legislature created it with an unconstitutional law. A new elections board is set to begin its work at the end of January, but Republicans refused to go along with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s to appoint an interim body, McCready’s attorneys said.

“Harris has an alternative, legally adequate remedy, which is to allow the Board, which will be appointed and reconvene in less than three weeks, to finish its investigation and hold the evidentiary hearing,” the Democrat’s lawyers said.

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