House Democrats will refuse to seat North Carolina Republican candidate Mark HarrisMark HarrisNorth Carolina lawmakers override veto of elections bill Fight over North Carolina race set to drag on for months The Democratic and Anti-democratic parties MORE on Jan. 3 as state election authorities investigate election fraud claims surrounding his race, incoming House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDem rep after visiting migrant camps: It’s like watching an episode of ‘Locked Up Abroad’ Dem leaders vow investigations after latest death of migrant child in US custody Both sides play blame game on first day of shutdown MORE (D-Md.) said Friday.
Hoyer told The Washington Post that Democrats would oppose any effort to seat Harris, who leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the state’s 9th District.
But the North Carolina state Board of Elections has refused to certify the results as it conducts an investigation into claims of fraud involving absentee ballots in two rural counties of the district.
“Given the now well-documented election fraud that took place in NC-09, Democrats would object to any attempt by Mr. Harris to be seated on January 3,” Hoyer told the Post.
“In this instance, the integrity of our democratic process outweighs concerns about the seat being vacant at the start of the new Congress,” he added.
New House members will be seated on Jan. 3 under a new Democratic majority after the party flipped 40 seats in the midterm elections in November.
The House race in North Carolina’s 9th District remains the last undecided federal race of the year amid allegations that a contractor for Harris’s campaign, Leslie McCrae Dowless, had run an operation that illegally collected absentee ballots from voters during the race.
Harris has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing in the race, and filed an emergency petition on Friday morning urging the state elections board to quickly certify him as the winner in the House race.
North Carolina Republicans have supported calls for an investigation into the allegations, but have also called for state officials to certify the race unless they can prove that fraud changed the outcome.
But House Democrats have previously suggested they would not seat Harris on Jan. 3, and Hoyer’s comments on Friday further raise expectations for a new race.
The state elections board and the House itself have the power to call for a new race, which would involve new primaries to be followed by a general election. That would give Republicans a chance to ditch Harris, though so far they have stood by him.
McCready, who initially conceded the race in November, withdrew his concession in early December and called on Harris to tell investigators what he knew about Dowless’s alleged ballot-harvesting scheme.
The state elections board has called for an evidentiary hearing on Jan. 11, about a week after new House members are to be seated.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said he plans to install an interim panel of state elections officials that would operate until Jan. 31, when a new state law remaking North Carolina’s elections and ethics boards takes effect, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Updated at 5:33 p.m.