Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing on election fraud, NC political parties cast competing views

What’s the political controversy in North Carolina’s 9th district?

Here's an overview of the election fraud allegations in North Carolina's congressional 9th district.
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Here's an overview of the election fraud allegations in North Carolina's congressional 9th district.

The day before attorneys battle in open court over whether Mark Harris should be officially named the winner of the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, the state’s major political parties competed to set the public narrative.

They held dueling press conferences that characterized the investigations into alleged ballot fraud in widely divergent ways.

According to the GOP, there is no evidence that Harris, a Republican, improperly won the race for the district that stretches from Charlotte along the South Carolina border to rural Bladen County, where allegations involving political operative McCrae Dowless are centered. “There’s no evidence to show that this race has ever been in doubt,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP.

According to Democrats, there’s evidence of “systemic election fraud.” “This is nothing more than a second attempt to steal this election,” said Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Unofficial results show Harris with a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready. The state board of elections twice voted against certifying the race due to irregularities. The first vote, on Nov. 27, was unanimous.

At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the conflict will move into a new phase. Attorneys for Harris, McCready and the state elections board will stand before Judge Paul C. Ridgeway in Wake County Superior Court. It’s the first court hearing about a lawsuit Harris filed Jan. 3, the day other members of the U.S. Congress were sworn in.

Harris has asked the court to order that his election be certified. He argued that the matter was up to the court because there is no longer a sitting state elections board. A three-judge panel dissolved the board amid a separate political dispute Dec. 28.

A new board, with a different makeup, is expected to be named Jan. 31. It will be comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will choose members from lists provided by party chairs. Neither party has yet submitted names, party leaders said Monday.

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Carli Brosseau is a reporter at The News & Observer who often analyzes databases as part of her work. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.