Opinion

A missing elections board deepens the 9th District mess

AP

First the problem in the 9th Congressional District was with absentee ballots. Now it’s become a problem of an absentee board.

The official outcome of the 9th District congressional race remains unresolved nearly two months after the election. The panel that was supposed to resolve it — the State Board of Elections — has been dissolved by a court order that came as a result of a lawsuit that successfully overturned a law that reconfigured the board.

Gov. Roy Cooper is trying to appoint a temporary board to continue investigating voting irregularities in the 9th District until a permanent board is convened on Jan. 31 under a new law. But Republicans are refusing to go along. Despite credible allegations of election fraud, they say Republican candidate Mark Harris won a 905-vote victory over Democratic candidate Dan McCready and Harris should be certified as the winner and be able to join the new Congress on Jan. 3.

The Republican foot stomping is moot since the decision on who is seated in the House is up to the incoming Democratic House leaders. They say they won’t seat a representative from the district until the inquiry into the potential abuse of absentee ballots is complete.

The sequence that led to this impasse is deeply confusing. Even election officials don’t fully understand who has authority and what is to be decided. While Republicans say a victory is being denied, Democrats say an investigation of election fraud is being impeded by the Republicans’ unwillingness to seat a temporary board.

No one looks good in this imbroglio, but it’s clear who caused the confusion and who is responsible for another round of national embarrassment for North Carolina. That would be the Republican legislative leaders.

The setup of the State Board of Elections — three members appointed by the governor and two from the opposing party — worked fine for many elections, but when Cooper, a Democrat, unseated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016, Republican lawmakers suddenly saw a need to adjust the elections board to end the governor’s control of it.

That power grab triggered a series of successful lawsuits by the governor, whipsawed the board’s makeup and has left the state temporarily with no one to settle an election fraud investigation. No one should be declared the winner until after the investigation is complete.

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