Republican candidate Mark Harris plans to ask a North Carolina court Thursday to certify the results of the state’s unsettled 9th Congressional District election, his attorney told CNN.
Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in unofficial tallies of the race, but the state elections board has repeatedly refused to certify the results, instead spending more than a month investigating accusations that an operative for a firm hired by Harris was involved in illegal absentee ballot-collection schemes.
Harris’ move comes after North Carolina elections staff had to postpone a previously scheduled hearing into accusations of ballot fraud in the race.
“We’ve been expecting a hearing, but now we have no choice,” Harris’ attorney David Freedman told CNN. “We’re not trying to circumvent the state board’s investigation, but we do want it to move along as quickly as possible.”
Freedman told CNN that despite the planned lawsuit, Harris will meet with board investigators Thursday as scheduled.
“We’re prepared to answer any and all questions that the state board has for Dr. Harris. We plan to be candid,” Freedman said.
Harris’ meeting with investigators and his planned legal action will come the same day he had hoped to be sworn in as a new member of the 116th Congress.
The board dissolved last week as part of an ongoing legal battle over its composition. Without members it can’t hold hearings, grant election certificates or call for new elections until a new law governing the board goes into effect at the end of the month.
Gov. Roy Cooper had hoped to appoint an interim board that would’ve served until then to allow the hearing, which had been scheduled for January 11, to take place.
But North Carolina Republicans refused to submit names to fill the two GOP seats on the five-member board, and Cooper didn’t want to go forward with an exclusively Democratic board, according to a statement from his office.
“Quickly rooting out real election fraud should be a bipartisan effort. Today in North Carolina, we have a Board of Elections with five empty chairs because Republicans are blocking the way,” Cooper said in the statement.
The North Carolina GOP responded that it thought Cooper’s plan was unlawful and would’ve hurt public confidence in the election system.
“Our unwillingness to participate in the creation of an unlawful ‘interim’ State Board of Elections results from a desire to ensure that any future investigation surrounding the Ninth Congressional District election is open, fair, and transparent, and not tainted by actions taken by an illegal board,” state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a statement.
If Harris’ legal action is unsuccessful, the 9th District could be without representation until at least February, or even longer if the new board decides to call for a new election.
Hayes responded to Harris’ legal move Wednesday with a statement of support that said in part, “We applaud Congressman-Elect Mark Harris’ campaign for taking this important action to make sure the more-than 750,000 people in the Ninth Congressional District are represented in Congress. …
“Absent evidence that rises to the level of having changed the outcome of the race, or a substantial likelihood the outcome of the race could have been altered, Dr. Harris should be certified.”
CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Danielle Hackett contributed to this report.