A judge rightly said no last week to Mark Harris being declared the winner in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. The nerve of Harris even to ask.
Harris, a former megachurch pastor (God bless him), had petitioned a judge last week to be seated in a race whose results have been seriously questioned.
Rather than wait for an investigation of alleged tampering with absentee ballots to play out, the Charlotte Republican wanted to be seated anyway — now — regardless of the toxic cloud that hangs over the still-unsettled election, in which he leads Democrat Dan McCready by a scant 905 votes.
The case has been complicated an earlier court decision that disbanded the State Board of Elections in the midst of the ballot fraud investigation. A new elections board won’t be appointed until Thursday, Jan. 31.
Judge Paul Ridgeway of Wake County Superior Court asked why Harris couldn’t simply wait nine days for the new elections board to pick up where the old one left off.
“This is an extremely unusual situation, with no board in place, and asking this court to step in and exert extraordinary power in declaring the winner of an election, when that is clearly the purview of another branch of government,” Ridgeway said during the hearing. The new elections board “will be in the best position to weigh the factual and legal issues” and determine the winner, the judge said.
This isn’t to say that Harris won’t eventually emerge as the winner. But at least the results would be more credible. As of now, they are anything but.
A subcontractor who worked for Harris may have altered or discarded mail-in ballots that could have changed the outcome. More than a dozen witnesses have signed sworn affidavits alleging that Leslie Dowless or his surrogates collected unsealed and incomplete ballots from voters. So bothered was the bipartisan state Board of Elections that it refused to certify the results.
It is true that the impasse in the 9th, for now, leaves 750,000 residents of that district with no representation in Congress. That’s an unfortunate consequence. But as some voters around here well know, it is not unprecedented.
When Democrat Mel Watt resigned his congressional seat in the 12th District in January 2014 to become director of the National Housing Finance Agency, then-Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, chose to hold off on the special election to replace Watt until that November. So the 12th District, which until 2016 included parts of Greensboro, was left without representation in Washington for nearly a year — until Democrat Alma Adams, then a Greensboro resident, won the seat.
Here’s hoping that we don’t see that situation replayed in 2018. But getting this election right is more important. And as we have written before, in the end, that probably will mean a complete do-over, beginning with new primaries.
In his heart of hearts, surely Harris must realize that?
Indeed, as a pastor he might have touched on similar themes in a sermon on the wisdom of patience: “The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8).
Or on the power of truth.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32-36).