WAKE COUNTY, N.C. - Attorneys for Mark Harris filed legal documents Thursday morning with Wake County Superior Court, requesting the results in North Carolina's controversial 9th Congressional District election in November be certified and Harris be declared the winner – despite a state investigation into the race.
Harris, the Republican candidate, is currently leading the contested election and is petitioning the North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement for a swift certification.
A courier for the legal team representing Harris submitted a writ of mandamus to the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court shortly after 9 a.m.
Harris’ attorneys argue the state board was required by statute to authenticate and certify the results since the counties in the 9th District already certified the results and no protests were filed.
The petition says the state board’s refusal replaced the wills of the voters and legislature with its own. It goes on to say Harris and the citizens of the 9th District have been harmed by this.
The 9th Congressional District election has been fraught with allegations of election fraud, mainly focused around suspicious absentee ballots.
State elections officials are looking into absentee ballot results in the 9th District race, particularly in Bladen and Robeson counties, where a Harris campaign operative – McCrae Dowless -- allegedly sent people door to door to collect mail-in ballots.
Harris has said repeatedly that he has done nothing wrong, but he has acknowledged bringing Dowless on board to run absentee ballot operations in Bladen County. Affidavits and interviews point to Dowless as the center of a ballot-harvesting operation in the 9th District last year and in past elections, as well.
The court filing was the natural next step for Harris, but political expert Michael Bitzer told Channel 9 the courts may not want to get involved in this with a new North Carolina State Board of Elections taking over in four weeks.
“I think the courts would be rather hesitant to extend themselves into this issue when the state bureaucratic agency, the state Board of Elections, is due to come back into being,” Bitzer said.
Even if Harris does win in court and is certified as the winner, there is no guarantee he will represent the 9th District in Congress. The now Democratic-controlled House has control of who is allowed to be seated.
Bitzer said there is very little judicial authority to overturn the constitutional provision afforded to the U.S. House. It could take action and vacate the seat at any time without waiting until a new state board is in place.
“The Democratic majority that has taken over today has been fairly clear they are not going to seat Mark Harris,” Bitzer said.
One of Harris' attorneys said Harris is hopeful he will join up with new members in Congress soon.
A hearing date for Harris' petition has not been set. Parties have until Jan. 14 to submit responsive briefs.
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