RALEIGH – We were barely able to publish a piece on the Raleigh court hearing considering Republican Mark Harris’s request for a judge to step in and certify the scandal-laden 9th Congressional District election before said judge issued a ruling.
Judge Paul Ridgeway, after a moderate recess, issued a statement that the court would not intervene to certify the election. Instead, the issue is left to the State Board of Elections to resolve once it is reconstituted starting January 31.
Obviously, this is not the decision Harris, or the NCGOP, wanted to hear, but it is one based on sound legal reasoning.
In his statement, Judge Ridgeway highlighted that North Carolina statute holds an election protest, or associated investigation, must be allowed to conclude. Once the investigation does conclude, however, the Board must rule one way or the other within 10 days. Either the race is certified in Harris’ favor, or a new election is called.
While Democrats, and their media friends covering the hearing, are likely to frame it as a rebuke of Harris and Republicans, it is more a matter of law than a judgement on the merit of the investigation itself.
Yes, the matter is complicated exponentially by dissolution of the State Board, not scheduled to be reconstituted until the end of this month, but even without a Board the investigation has continued in earnest. The judge pointed out that Harris is still participating in that investigation, and nothing within the recent legislation to reinstall a new Board on January 31 had the effect of suspending that work.
As such, the judge elected not to intervene, citing the statutes to bolster the court’s position that it is more proper and lawful for the delayed Board to conclude the investigation and make a ruling of their own.
So now all eyes turn to the State Board of Elections, whoever they may be, and how they wrap up the investigation in the coming weeks. Republicans will rightly be concerned with who is ultimately on the new Board, justifiably opposed to the inclusion of blatant partisans like former chair Joshua Malcolm.
Moreover, how long will they take to conclude and rule? As of yet there has not been any public hard evidence of fraud, though the Board is not required to make the evidence public at this point.
If they call for a new election without divulging the hard evidence that fraud changed the result of the race, Republicans will be justified in questioning the partisan influence on their decision.
All that being said, the 9th District Saga continues, and will likely last well into next month.