MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - Democrat Rachel Hunt was sworn in to the North Carolina House of Representatives Wednesday, just a day after the NC Values Coalition held a news conference asking leaders not to seat her.
The conservative Christian group asked the North Carolina House to delay seating Hunt from November because it said there are questions about mail-in absentee ballots in her extremely close race.
"I have not had time to really study that issue, so I wouldn't want to say without studying it," Hunt said.
A recount found Hunt beat Republican Bill Brawley in the North Carolina House District 103 race by 68 votes.
The NC Values Coalitions said it filed a memorandum and supporting evidence with the clerk of the North Carolina House of Representatives pointing to absentee ballot irregularities in Mecklenburg County.
Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald said the chamber shouldn't seat Hunt, "until it has thoroughly investigated this matter and determined which candidate won the most votes."
Members of the coalition came to the Channel 9 studios with a handful of ballots on Friday. They claim the dates on which witnesses signed the ballots were different from the dates entered by voters.
The coalition said its sister research organization found more than 300 mail-in absentee ballots with date discrepancies between the signatures of voters and witnesses who see the ballot filled out. State law requires either two witnesses or a notary public to sign the absentee ballot envelope.
The group also provided nearly a dozen affidavits suggesting "irregularities," including that some people requested ballots when they no longer lived in the House district, or that some witnesses signed envelopes when they had not been present to see the ballot being filled out.
“This is a desperate, last-minute attempt to deny a seat to a lawfully-elected representative. The Mecklenburg and the State Board of Elections have both certified Rachel Hunt as HD-103’s Representative, and she will officially assume that seat tomorrow," North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections told Channel 9 it welcomes "all credible evidence of alleged misconduct" but said these claims "miss the mark."
Absentee ballots are also at the center of the investigation into the U.S. House District 9 race. State election officials have delayed certifying Mark Harris as the winner as they look into claims of election fraud.
House Speaker Tim Moore said, in light of the questions, the legislature may take a look at ways to tighten absentee ballot security.
“Anything we can do to make sure we are rooting out and preventing election fraud is something we should do,” Moore said.
While she hasn’t been seated long, Hunt said she would be supportive of this.
“Absentee ballot is certainly a way to vote in this state and country, and it should continue, but everything should be done appropriately,” Hunt said.
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