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School of Government explains how the 9th congressional controversy came to be

Are you still confused about how the 9th congressional district remains without representation in Congress?

The University of North Carolina School of Government has taken a swing at trying to explain “our messy congressional election and how we got here.”

Robert Joyce, a Charles Edwin Hinsdale Professor of Public Law and Government, writes about five threads that are interrelated in the controversy over alleged absentee voter fraud in the 9th congressional district. They are: re-configuring the State Board of Elections; allegations of fraud in the election; how many new elections?; what if the new State Board does not order a new election?; and the power of the United States House of Representatives.

The explanatory article was posted a few days ago, so there has since been a new State Board seated. Gov. Roy Cooper announced yesterday who would serve on the Board and they subsequently met and decided Bob Cordle would be chair and Stella Anderson would be secretary — both are Democratic members.

It’s expected the new Board will meet again next week to work out details of a hearing in the 9th congressional district investigation. Joyce wrote in his first thread explanation that the struggle over control of that Board has nothing to do with the congressional election but has become entwined in it.

The second thread explores the types of fraud irregularities that were reported, and the third thread delves into how many new elections there could be if the Board decides there are enough votes at issue or the irregularities are so that they taint the results of the entire election.

If the State Board does not order a new election at all, Joyce writes about the possible outcomes for the 9th district.

But the order for a new election requires the votes of four board members—four out of the five. It is not beyond imagination that by a three-to-two vote the board finds that there are sufficient grounds to order a new election, but cannot secure the fourth vote to actually order the election.

What happens then? Another entry into unchartered waters. Perhaps the state board would decide that at that point it has done all it can and will issue a certificate of election to Harris. Or perhaps the three-member majority would refuse to do that, leading, it could be, to a lawsuit by Harris for a court order for a certificate of election.

Perhaps the Governor could order a new election. There is a statute that authorizes the Governor to call a new election any time there is a “vacancy.” That usually happens, of course, when a sitting member of the House of Representatives dies or resigns. What about the current Ninth district circumstance? Is there a “vacancy” within the meaning of the statute?

If the new state board issues a certificate of election, then surely there will be no vacancy. What happens if the board does not reach that point for a long time? Is there, at some point, a “vacancy?” More unchartered territory.

Finally, Joyce writes about the power the U.S. House holds in this election — it has the final say.

For now, the House is waiting for the North Carolina process to play out—a new state elections board to be appointed, an investigation to be completed, perhaps new elections to be held, and, eventually a certificate of election to be issued. But, ultimately, the House of Representatives may upend any resolution reached at the state level.

You can read the full report here. The State Board also has a public portal here with documents it has made available throughout the course of its 9th district investigation. And you can read more about the new State Board here.

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