Commentary, Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy

Editorial: Reject Mark Harris’ plea to seat him

Rev. Mark Harris

North Carolina’s chaotic 9th District fiasco took another turn Thursday, with Republican candidate Mark Harris asking a court to step in and seal his victory over Democrat Dan McCready, despite mounting evidence that something went badly awry during the election.

Given the blooming investigation into possible election fraud, it’s a bad faith effort that could only damage the public’s good faith in our election process, a point highlighted in a sterling editorial Thursday evening from The Fayetteville Observer.

But with the already apparent resistance to seating Harris in the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, which has the power to rebuff him in his quest for a seat, the crisis for 9th District voters seems far from finished.

Check out the editorial below:

Mark Harris’ desperate struggle to claim a tarnished election victory in the 9th Congressional District moved to Wake County Superior Court Thursday as his campaign asked a judge to order the state elections director to certify his victory. That’s a bad idea that could turn out to be a far-reaching miscarriage of justice. While the official vote count gives Harris a 905-vote lead over Democrat Dan McCready, affidavits and other evidence already made public cast doubts on the legitimacy of that victory. Tampering with absentee ballots almost certainly occurred and until several investigations are completed, we won’t know if Harris actually has enough votes to win. Certifying his victory at this point is a risky decision based on guesses and wishful thinking.

It’s unclear when any informed decisions will be made about the elections, since constitutional questions about the elections board led the courts to dissolve it. A hearing on the 9th District race had been scheduled for next week but has been indefinitely postponed until a new board is seated at the end of this month. Harris argues that “Time is of the essence” and that district residents shouldn’t be deprived of representation. But Sen. Thom Tillis has already stepped forward and told residents to contact his office for any assistance they may need with federal issues. That removes any need to rush.

Meanwhile, Republicans appear to forget (conveniently, we expect) that in 2014, when former 12th District Congressman Mel Watt resigned to take a position in the Obama administration, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and fellow party leaders chose to leave the post vacant until the next election. Residents of the 12th went 10 months without a congressman and the GOP saw no problem with that. After all, they said, there were saving taxpayers $1 million by not holding a special election.

And now it’s life-and-death to have a certified congressman from the 9th, whether or not he really won?

Even if a Superior Court judge orders Harris seated, two other things are likely to delay his journey to Washington:

• Any decision to seat him would almost certainly be appealed to a higher court.

• And the new Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives, who were sworn in on Thursday, have already said they’ll refuse to seat Harris until the investigations are completed. Those leaders have constitutional authority to order a new election — complete with a primary — anyway. If the evidence continues to point to widespread fraud, that’s what they’re likely to do, if the state doesn’t get there first.

Let’s take the time to get this right.

 

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