State Board of Elections refuses to intervene in canvass; Cooper’s lead grows in governor’s race
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
RALEIGH (CFP) — The GOP-controlled North Carolina State Board of Elections has refused to intervene in a canvass of votes in the state’s hotly contested race for governor, a blow to Republican Governor Pat McCrory’s quest to challenge results showing him trailing Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Meanwhile, Cooper has appointed a transition team and dismissed claims by McCrory and his campaign of voter fraud as “the same kind of misleading and dishonest rhetoric that they’ve used throughout the campaign, rhetoric meant to cause confusion.”
“Governor McCrory is doing everything he can to undermine the results of this election and the will of the people, but we won’t let him,” Cooper said in a video statement posted on Facebook.
But a spokesman for McCrory, Ricky Diaz, said the campaign was trying to ensure that voter fraud had not tainted the process and that “every legal vote is counted properly.”
“Why is Roy Cooper so insistent on circumventing the electoral process and counting the votes of dead people and felons?” Diaz said in a statement. “It may be because he needs those fraudulent votes to count in order to win. Instead of insulting North Carolina voters, we intende to let the process work as it should.”
Should Cooper hang on, North Carolina would be the only state where Democrats flipped a governorship in 2016 and would give them a third Southern governorship, compared to 11 for Republicans.
The latest unofficial vote total from the State Board of Elections shows Cooper with a lead of 6,500 votes, up from the 4,700 vote total Cooper held on election night. Election boards in all of the state’s 100 counties have been adding provisional and absentee ballots to the total.
The McCrory campaign has filed protests in 50 counties, alleged fraudulent absentee ballots and votes by felons and dead people. It asked the state elections panel to oversee official county canvasses across the state, the results of which are scheduled to be certified by the state on November 29. But the board voted to let the counties continue the process on their own.
So far, 40 counties have completed their canvasses and certified final results. However, none of those were large metropolitan counties with vote totals large enough to conceivably allow McCrory to make up ground.
If Cooper’s lead is less than 10,000 votes when the final canvasses are completed, McCrory could request a statewide recount.
In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections and all 100 county boards are appointed by the governor, with the governor’s political party holding a majority on all of those panels, regardless of the political leanings of the county.
The McCrory campaign suffered a major blow when the board in Durham County, despite being controlled by members of his own party, turned down a challenge alleging possible fraud.
On election night, 90,000 votes from the heavily Democratic county came in late, propelling Cooper into the lead and prompting McCrory to cry foul. However, elections officials in Durham said the votes were reported all at once because a technical problem forced them to enter the results from voting machines by hand.
A different technical problem with computerized voter roles in Durham County led the State Board of Elections to extend voting by up to an hour in eight precincts on election day.
While turning down McCrory’s request to get involved in canvasses statewide, the state board did agree to look at allegations of voter fraud in Bladen County, in the southeastern party of the state. However, McCrory actually won in Bladen County and less than 16,000 people voted, making any change there unlikely to alter Cooper’s lead.
McCrory rode a GOP wave into office in 2012, but the Republican-controlled legislature’s passage of a controversial voter ID law and measures favored by religious conservatives made the governor a lightning rod.
The issue that dominated the race was McCrory’s decision to sign a law requiring transgendered students to use bathrooms that match their gender of birth, rather than their gender of identity, in public facilities.
McCrory continued to defend the law, even after a number of businesses scuttled expansion plans and the NCAA, NBA and ACC pulled events from the state.
Cooper not only opposed the measure, but he also refused to defend it in court when students and the federal government took legal action to overturn it.