UPDATE: State BOE postpones election fraud investigation hearing, candidate to file suit

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RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — The State Board of Elections is officially postponing the evidentiary hearing previously scheduled for January 11. This is because Governor Roy Cooper has not named new members to the State BOE, saying republicans refuse to provide a list of nominees.

The current state Board of Elections will not be named because the chair of the state Republican Party has refused to put forward nominees to the state Board of Elections, obstructing action on the ongoing investigation into election irregularities in the 9th Congressional District, the Governor’s Office said Wednesday.

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“All North Carolinians deserve to have confidence in a system of voting that ensures honest and fair elections,” Gov. Cooper said. “If politicians and the people they hire are manipulating the system to steal elections, all of us should pull together to get to the bottom of it and stop it — regardless of whether the candidate who finished ahead in a tainted election is a Republican or a Democrat.”

Under the current state law now in effect, the governor is to name five members to the North Carolina State Board of Elections selected from among a list of names provided by the two political parties with the highest number of registered affiliates.

Republican leaders call the Governor’s actions “unlawful”. We heard from GOP party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse.

“We will appoint members at the end of the month for the constitutionally derived, legislatively prescribed board of elections that begins on January 30th,” said Woodhouse.

Since the structure of the Board that exists today is exactly the same as the structure starting January 31 under the new law, Gov. Cooper envisioned appointing the same people to both Boards—the current one and the one to be formed Jan. 31.

Gov. Cooper intended to name members to the Board quickly so it could continue without interruption its investigation into alleged election fraud in the 9th Congressional District race.

The State Board of Elections continues its investigation into irregularities affecting absentee voting in the 9th Congressional District, but says the hearing for January 11 has been postponed.

“State Board staff will continue to interview witnesses and pursue leads as part of this investigation,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections. “This agency remains steadfast in its obligation to ensure confidence in the elections process.”

Woodhouse says if the board had conducted the initial December hearing, this situation would never have happened.

“They kept delaying the hearing and they failed to act,” said Woodhouse.

There’s no word yet on when it will be rescheduled.

Last week, Governor Cooper called on the chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties to provide their lists of nominees. The Democratic Party put forward a list of nominees but the governor’s office says the Republican Party has refused to provide any names and has discouraged Republicans from accepting any appointment to the Board.

To “ensure that the Board remains fair and bipartisan and to make sure all North Carolinians have confidence in its decision,” Governor Cooper has declined to appoint a Board with only three members selected from the names put forward by the Democratic Party.

The governor’s office says this failure could obstruct an ongoing investigation into disturbing allegations of election fraud and prevent a duly appointed, constitutional Board of Elections from being able to hear evidence and make an informed decision.

Under a new law passed by the General Assembly last month, the Board of Elections is returned to a constitutional structure—the same structure previously in effect for more than 100 years until 2016 when legislators made changes since deemed unconstitutional.

This same constitutional structure is in effect for the Board today, since a panel of judges allowed the stay on an unconstitutional iteration of the board to expire.

“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,” Gov. Cooper said.

Now the Mark Harris campaign intends to ask a judge to certify the election. His campaign and attorney’s announced that he will file a Writ of Mandamus petition in Wake County Superior Court Thursday.

“The state has refused to act and has lost its ability to act. So Mr. Harris is going to go to court to try to force certification of this race,” said Woodhouse.