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Uncertainty clouds North Carolina elections fraud investigation

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North Carolina Republicans on Friday demanded that their party’s candidate be declared winner of a disputed U.S. congressional race following legal developments that threatened to derail an ongoing state probe into possible election fraud.

Republican Mark Harris filed an emergency petition to be certified as victor of last month’s election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His request was rejected by a state elections board reviewing whether mail-in ballots were illegally handled in some rural counties.

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But the future of that investigation was thrown into doubt after a court ruling disbanded the elections board on Friday, after the court declined to again extend a stay on an order declaring the composition of the elections board unconstitutional.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said he would immediately appoint an interim board to continue the investigation until a restructured board was due to begin operating at the end of January under a new state law.

“It is vital that the State Board of Elections finish its investigation of potential election fraud in the Ninth Congressional District,” Cooper’s office said in a statement.

If evidence of fraud is uncovered, North Carolina’s board of elections could order a new vote. The U.S. House could also rule on the election outcome.

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But North Carolina Republicans said recent developments made it unlikely that such actions would overturn an initial tally in which Harris edged out Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

Since then, residents of rural Bladen County have provided affidavits that people came to their homes and collected unfilled absentee ballots. It is illegal in North Carolina for a third party to turn in absentee ballots.

Republicans said the investigation has not turned up evidence of sufficient improprieties to change the outcome.

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“All the Democrats want to do is delay and delay and delay,” Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in a phone interview.

He noted that the restructured elections board, as of February, will require a bipartisan vote to call a new election.

“There is now no chance – none – that there will be a new election called in North Carolina,” Woodhouse said.

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Representatives for the Harris and McCready campaigns could not immediately be reached for comment.

State Democrats contend that Republicans have undermined the elections system by ramming in changes, including the new elections board, by a Republican-controlled legislature.

“Mark Harris is trying to steal this election,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said on CNN. “It is obstruction of an investigation.”

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Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Additional reporting by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Leslie Adler

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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