NC Legislature overrides Gov. Cooper's veto affecting 9th District House race

The North Carolina General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of a bill that calls for new primary in the 9th District Congressional race in the event a new election is ordered.

House Bill 1029 become law on Thursday. 

The law restores the way elections are governed and reverts back to a five-member election board and a separate ethics board. 

Back in October, a three judge panel ruled the North Carolina State Board of Elections unconstitutionally took power away from the governor. The court said the NCSBE had to dissolve. On Thursday, the same panel of judges ruled the board must disband by noon on Friday Dec. 28 - two weeks before a scheduled hearing into ballot fraud affecting the last undecided Congressional race in the country.

The ruling now raises questions about how the current ballot fraud investigation will be handled.   

“It will be likely that the current board will simply hand over the investigation that they have done so far to the new [elections] board when it comes into play,” Catawba College political science professor Dr. Michael Bitzer said.

RELATED: Governor Roy Cooper addresses fraud allegations in NC-09 race 

If a new election is eventually ordered, which both parties have called for, a primary could be "a clean slate" for Republicans after a tight and controversial election, Bitzer said. 

“It could become very contested, very ugly," said Bitzer about a Republican primary. "And we could potentially see a second primary if nobody gets to the threshold.” 

Republican Mark Harris has kept a low profile since winning the election by less than a thousand votes. Harris recently ducked out of a secret exit at a GOP event to avoid answering reporter questions. He will eventually have to answer questions from voters. 

“What he knew, when he knew it and what he was going to do about it,” said Bitzer, referring to allegations Harris' campaign hired McCrae Dowless, who is accused of paying people to illegally collect and tamper with absentee ballots in Bladen County. 

“Any candidate that goes into an election under a cloud of allegations, a cloud of scandal," said Bitzer,  "has to be able to prove back to the voters that he is indeed worthy of their trust and their votes."

The new law strengthens absentee ballot voting requirements statewide, pushes for the investigation into absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County to continue uninterrupted, and delayed the split of the board into two separate entities until Jan. 31.

It is unclear what impact the court's ruling Thursday will have on the investigation and the certification of the razor-thin race. 

Last week, Gov. Cooper vetoed HB 1029 because of an added section that would keep secret future  investigations into potential campaign finance misdeeds.

Cooper has yet to comment. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.