RALEIGH, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Tuesday was a big day in North Carolina’s ninth district. A judge denied republican Mark Harris' petition to certify the results of an election fraught with controversy.
The decision was decisive on Mark Harris's petition to the court. The judge said the petition didn't have standing. Now the question is-- what’s next in the investigation into absentee ballot fraud?
"The court orders that the writ of mandamus from the petitioner be denied,” Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said definitively Tuesday morning.
Political experts say it would've been an uphill fight for Harris in his petition to get the District 9 race certified, and the decision from Judge Ridgeway, at the very least, delays Harris' chance at the congressional seat.
Harris’ attorneys argue that he's leading the race, giving legal reasoning for being certified.
The State Board of Elections says they still have an investigation on their hands, and Democrat Dan McCready's campaign sided with the Board.
“We look forward to providing a full accounting of what transpired once a Board is seated,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, State Board executive director. “Public confidence in our elections system demands it.”
Harris' attorneys say they were ready for whatever decision, and after it came down they said their case isn't over.
“I’m hoping the election board gets seated January 31st, and relatively quickly after that, there will be a hearing,” said David Freedman, an attorney for the Mark Harris campaign.
The State Board of Elections was dissolved last month for reasons unrelated to the District 9 race, but Board staff have continued their investigation into election fraud.
State Board investigators continue to thoroughly investigate irregularities, including absentee-by-mail voting irregularities, in the 2018 general election. Elections staff are preparing for a public evidentiary hearing to give North Carolina voters a full picture of the issues that affected that contest. Only after a full hearing on the record will State Board members be able to make an informed decision on whether to certify a winner or order a new election.
Harris’ attorneys tried to argue that the Board of Elections could certify while continuing their investigation, but the judge ruled they had no legal right to do so.
“We’re going to be ready to go, we're not going to take any actions to delay that,” Freeman said.
Aaron Simpson, a spokesperson for McCready's campaign, says their push for answers isn't over.
“It tells us that a lot of questions have to be answered. and those answers will come from the evidence from the investigation from a hearing,” Simpson said.
There was a real sense from the judge that this was a matter reserved for the State Board of Elections. It's been dissolved, but a new one is due to be appointed at the end of the month.
The Harris campaign has the option to appeal. He released a statement Tuesday evening saying:
"Since this whole experience began with the State Board of Elections, we have been committed to seeing the process followed and concluded. The hearing today in NC Superior Court was a place to turn when we found no place to turn but for their authority to grant a writ of mandamus. While we continue to maintain a 905 vote lead and the role of Congressman-Elect for the 9th district of NC, the decision of the court today has extended the process even longer. While we have cooperated fully with the state’s investigation of alleged ballot irregularities, no evidence has been supplied that suggests the outcome of the race is in question. Nevertheless, by the decision today, we will continue to cooperate with the investigation and hope for a speedy resolution."