Hunt seated in NC House

Posted January 9, 2019 12:15 p.m. EST
Updated January 9, 2019 3:13 p.m. EST

— Incoming state Rep. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, was seated in the N.C. House Wednesday despite a last-minute request from a right-leaning advocacy group.

"As far as I'm concerned, she's a member of the House," Speaker of the House Tim Moore said after the legislature began its new session Wednesday. "She's been elected. Her election's been certified."

The North Carolina Values Coalition called on the GOP majority Tuesday not to seat Hunt, who won a close race over incumbent Republican Bill Brawley. The group found inconsistencies with absentee ballots in her district and delivered a report to the speaker's office late Tuesday afternoon.

The coalition said it found a handful of people who voted by mail-in ballot in the race despite not living in the district or meeting other absentee requirements. In several cases, these were young people whose parents once lived in the district but had moved away.

The group said it also found some 300 absentee ballots where the date that voters signed paperwork didn't match the dates of witness signatures. Under state law, two people are supposed to witness the actual voting process and attest they did so with their signature.

If the dates don't match, it calls into question whether those votes were actually witnessed as required.

The State Board of Elections has told local boards of election that conflicting dates aren't enough to void ballots, though. The law requiring witnesses to attest mail-in ballots doesn't say anything about dating those signatures.

Moore, R-Cleveland, told reporters that, "if there's any information to come forward, obviously I think we'd look," but he and other leadership showed no appetite for trying to block Hunt's seating from House District 103, which is in the Charlotte area.

Hunt won her race by 68 votes in one of the most expensive General Assembly races in the state last year. She is former Gov. Jim Hunt's daughter.

NC Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald said in a statement Wednesday that the State Board is "selectively enforcing election laws" by allowing counties to disregard discrepancies between voter and witness signature dates. Board spokesman Patrick Gannon said Tuesday that the mismatched dates "may suggest a good starting point for an investigation," but that Fitzgerald's criticisms of the board missed the mark.

In her statement, Fitzgerald said these discrepancies should be part of the ongoing investigation into absentee results in the 9th Congressional District. House District 103 lies within that congressional district, where Republican Mark Harris' election has been held up over questions with absentee results in other counties.

"The law requires absentee by mail ballots to be marked and signed by the voter in the presence of two witnesses or a notary public," Fitzgerald said. "If the voter signs the ballot on one date, and the two witnesses each sign the ballot on a different date, that indicates the ballot was not marked and witnessed in the presence of the witnesses."