RALEIGH, N.C. — The nation's longest-running statewide election race could be decided in the next few weeks and a new state school superintendent could be in place before summer's end.
Lawmakers moved a step closer Wednesday to resolving the election dispute between Democratic candidate June Atkinson and Republican candidate Bill Fletcher.
A special legislative committee of 10 legislators -- six Democrats and four Republicans -- met to begin the process of deciding a winner in the race. They will be charged with reviewing written arguments from Atkinson and Fletcher.
The documents are due by July 12. Hearings will take place July 14 and 15.
The hearings will be conducted like a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. There will be witnesses and testimony, and unlike a court case, committee members will be allowed additional evidence if they need it.
Lawmakers expect Atkinson will argue she won the race by more than 8,000 votes. Fletcher will argue 11,000 ballots cast in the wrong precinct should not count.
Then, like a trial, committee members will decide who is right.
"We'll deliberate as a committee, make a recommendation to the General Assembly, and then I would expect the General Assembly to act quickly on that recommendation," said Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg County.