By GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The head of North Carolina's elections board is suggesting more time may be needed to decide whether a new congressional district election is necessary due to absentee ballot fraud allegations.
Chairman Joshua Malcolm wrote to state judges Monday, saying those subpoenaed in the 9th Congressional District case have said they need more time to produce additional records. The board already planned an evidentiary hearing on the district race on or before Dec. 21.
But "it may be that their delays in production will lengthen the timeframe initially contemplated by the state board," Malcolm wrote a three-judge panel presiding over litigation challenging the board's composition that is unrelated to the 9th District race.
The schedule is important because a new session of Congress begins Jan. 3.
Unofficial results show Republican Mark Harris leading Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, but late last month the board delayed certifying the results due to alleged absentee balloting irregularities. Board investigators have been investigating activities in Bladen and Robeson counties, which are part of the 9th District. McCready withdrew his concession in the race last week, and Harris said he would support a new election if it's proved that fraud changed the outcome.
The board, which already has subpoenaed the Harris campaign and its chief political consulting firm for documents, could call a new election or declare a winner. Without resolution soon, the seat likely will become vacant.
Malcolm's letter came after one of the judges requested a summary of what the board is doing to wrap up its work on the November elections.
A majority of the judges agreed in October that the current nine-member elections and ethics board was unconstitutional because the process of making appointments prevented Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from controlling an executive agency. But the panel also stayed its ruling until Dec. 3, after it was expected that all election winners would be finalized.
With the unresolved 9th District race, and as state legislators drafted legislation to refashion the board's makeup, the board decided to extend the delay until noon Wednesday. Superior Court Judge Jeffery Foster asked for the update in case the panel may be asked to extend the delay order further.
Malcolm wrote that the board would complete its work "as quickly as we can responsibly do so" if the nine-member panel is preserved longer. Malcolm said a complete record would be needed if the board's 9th District decision is reviewed by courts or the U.S. House, which has the final say in judging who will be seated.
The state legislature, which is currently in session, is expected to debate another retooled elections board measure Tuesday.