GOP attacks NC elections board, calls 9th District investigation a Democratic delay tactic

Posted January 15, 2019

— As the legal battle over the 9th Congressional District election wages on, the North Carolina Republican Party is amping up attacks on the state elections board.

GOP Chairman Robin Hayes on Tuesday called an investigation by the State Board of Elections into alleged absentee ballot fraud in the 9th District race nothing more than a delay tactic by Democrats.

Republican Mark Harris is leading Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes in the race, but the elections board won't certify the results until they determine whether a political operative hired by Harris' campaign broke the law by illegally collecting absentee ballots from voters in Bladen and Robeson counties.

Hayes said the investigation has so far produced no evidence that allegations of ballot fraud would have changed the outcome of the race, and he called for Harris to be seated as the 9th District's representative in Congress.

"Barring any introduction of tangible evidence that overturns the election, certify. The people deserve to be represented," Hayes said during a news conference in Charlotte.

Harris is already seeking a court order to force state officials to declare him the winner of the race. A hearing on his request is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 22.

The elections board was dissolved last month by a court order in a separate court battle over its composition, so no hearings have been held yet to lay out evidence collected in the investigation. A new board won't be appointed until Jan. 31.

Elections board spokesman Patrick Gannon said in a statement that the investigation continues even without a board in place.

"We look forward to presenting a full picture of the investigation to the public when a new state board is seated," Gannon said.

In his sharpest attack to date, Hayes also accused former elections board Chairman Josh Malcolm of actively conspiring with Bladen County Democrats and McCready in phone conversations that were recently brought to light.

"What went on? What were they saying among themselves about how we can take this seat even though we didn't win it? That's what's going on," Hayes said.

Neither Malcolm nor elections board officials responded Tuesday to requests for comment.

Democratic leaders in the U.S. House have already said they will hold their own investigation into the election, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has said that, even if the state certifies Harris as the 9th District winner, they won't seat him under the current cloud of suspicion.

Hayes dismissed those statements as political posturing, saying they're not relevant to the case.