North Carolina's Ninth District: Two Months On, Still In Limbo

North Carolina's Ninth District: Two Months On, Still In Limbo

6:38am Jan 09, 2019
Mark Harris, pictured in Nov. 2018, speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

North Carolina is home to the last unsettled congressional race in the nation: the 9th District, around Charlotte.

As of election night, Republican Mark Harris seemed to have edged out his Democratic competitor, Dan McCready, by just 905 votes.

Since then, evidence has turned up that there may have been foul play in the voting process that could have benefitted the Harris campaign.

But a new State Board of Elections, which will pick up an investigation where the old one left off, won’t be appointed until the end of the month.

So, what does this all mean, and what’s the state of the 9th District?

WFDD’s Sean Bueter spoke with Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer to find out.

Interview Highlights

On the many confusing pieces of the 9th District puzzle:

I almost describe it as three-dimensional, sometimes four-dimensional chess, because you have the issues going on with the 9th Congressional District that is overseen by a State Board of Elections that was previously ruled unconstitutional. And then you've also got layered on top of all of this the U.S. House of Representatives that has decided it's going to hold its own potential investigation into the 9th's issues and allegations as well.

So you've got the state level, the federal level, and a congressional district. We don't know if there's going to be a call for a new election that the state board could conceivably do. In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives could require a new election. So there are so many moving parts that we're not sure day by day what is happening.

On the many questions that remain:

I think the only clue that we are certain about is that we will have a new State Board of Elections come and be seated on January 31. That new board will be composed of three Democrats and two Republicans. They will be nominated by their respective party chairs and the governor will appoint those individuals.

The question then becomes: do they continue the investigation that has been put on hold? Do we have a hearing based on that investigation? And what decision do four members of that five-member board decide to do? Do they decide to go ahead and certify Mark Harris as the next representative from the 9th? If they order a new election, is that a primary and a general election? And whatever action the state takes, what does the U.S. House do?

I think there are so many unknowns right now, except for the fact that January 31 we'll have a new state board. After that we all have to be watching very closely as to what happens next.

On the things to keep in mind going forward:

I think, certainly, the idea that every vote matters, and that every vote should be counted, and that when you have bad human behavior trying to manipulate an electoral system it calls into question the integrity of that electoral system. So I hope that afterwards we can have the transparency that the State Board of Elections and North Carolina elections administration has been known for. But [we need to] recognize that sometimes bad people do bad things with information. And this is an unfortunate episode of allegations that we have seen in modern North Carolina political history.

(Ed.: This transcription has been lightly edited for clarity.)

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