North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, dropped his plan to illegally appoint members of the State Board of Elections on Wednesday.
Cooper’s Wednesday announcement about his plans for the board of elections was just the latest of the ongoing twists and turns that leaves the outcome of the 9th Congressional District contest between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready unresolved almost two full months after the November 6 election.
The boards of election in the eight counties that comprise the 9th Congressional District certified that Harris won the race by 905 votes. But on November 28, the now-dissolved North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (NCSBE) refused to certify the election results so Harris could be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives when the 116th Session of Congress convenes in Washington, DC, on Thursday, citing alleged “election irregularities.”
The old NCSBE failed to conduct a scheduled December 21 evidentiary hearing on the alleged “election irregularities” prior to its statutorily determined dissolution on December 28, and a three-judge panel refused to extend its life beyond its expiration date, rebuking it for its failure to do its job and provide a resolution to the long-contested 9th Congressional District race.
Prior to that ruling, the NCSBE had postponed the December 21 evidentiary hearing until January 11.
Gov. Cooper then announced his intention to appoint five members of a new “interim” State Board of Elections without complying with the key element of the recently passed governing statute. That statute requires that two members of the commission must come from candidates nominated by the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, and two must come from candidates nominated by the chairman of the Democratic Party. The governor can select a third member from either party, but that candidate must also be nominated by a party chairman.
On Monday, attorney John Lewis, counsel to the North Carolina Republican Party, wrote a letter to Gov. Cooper advising him that his plan of making appointments to the interim State Board of Elections without securing nominations from North Carolina Republican Party Robin Hayes was illegal. Lewis stated that the matter would be litigated in the event Cooper went ahead with it.
On Wednesday, Cooper caved and abandoned his plan, as WSOC reported:
The governor released a statement Wednesday saying the Republicans’ decision not to submit nominees is obstructing action on the investigation into election fraud in the U.S. House District 9 race.
“All North Carolinians deserve to have confidence in a system of voting that ensures honest and fair elections,” Cooper said. “If politicians and the people they hire are manipulating the system to steal elections, all of us should pull together to get to the bottom of it and stop it — regardless of whether the candidate who finished ahead in a tainted election is a Republican or a Democrat.”
Cooper said a hearing to address the 9th District investigation on Jan. 11 cannot go forward without the interim board.
The latest development makes it unclear when the outcome of the 9th Congressional District race will be determined.
The new State Board of Elections is not authorized to conduct any business by law until January 31 and can only do so after the five board members have been properly nominated by the state party chairman and subsequently selected by Gov. Cooper.
The 9th Congressional District of North Carolina will not have a representative in the U.S. House of Representatives when the 116th Session of Congress convenes on Thursday and will not have one until the new State Board of Elections is properly organized and comes to a resolution — either to certify Harris or McCready as the winner or to declare a new primary election followed by a new general election.
Alternatively, the Democratically controlled House of Representatives could decide to undertake its own investigation of the alleged irregularities, make a finding, and determine and seat the winner.