Republican and Democratic officials held dueling news conferences in Raleigh on Monday regarding the disputed 9th Congressional District election, one day before a court hearing that could decide the winner in the race. Republican candidate Mark Harris is asking a judge to issue a writ of mandamus, which would essentially order the State Board of Elections to certify the results of the 9th District election and declare him the winner. He is recovering from an infection and said Monday he won’t be able to attend Tuesday morning’s court hearing. Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes following the election, but the state board has refused to certify the results because of suspicious absentee voting results in Bladen and Robeson counties. Harris has acknowledged hiring Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless to oversee absentee ballot operations in the county. Several people have told reporters that Dowless paid them to pick up mail-in ballots, a felony under North Carolina law due to tampering concerns.
Dowless has, through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing, but he hasn’t yet sat down with elections board investigators looking at the 9th District.
A state board hearing on the inquiry was once planned for Jan. 11, but that was canceled when a court dissolved the board as part of a separate lawsuit over the body’s makeup, which the court deemed unconstitutional.
A new state board is expected to be appointed next week.