State board sets Monday deadline for recounting ballots in Durham County
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
RALEIGH (CFP) — The hotly contested North Carolina governor’s race has entered what is likely its final stage, with elections officials in Durham County now recounting ballots to meet a Monday deadline.
With ballots certified in 98 of the state’s 100 counties, Cooper leads McCrory by 10,263 votes, out of more than 4.7 million votes cast.
If that margin holds after the Durham recount, McCrory won’t be entitled to a full statewide recount, which is only triggered if the margin is less than 10,000 votes.
The deadline for finishing the recount is 7 p.m. ET Monday.
Cooper beat McCrory by a margin of 91,000 votes in Durham County, taking a whopping 79 percent of the vote, which was his best performance in any county.
The contention over the results in Durham began on election night, when a batch of 90,000 votes came in all at once, propelling Cooper — who had trailed most of the night — into the lead statewide.
McCrory and his campaign found those results suspicious and demanded a recount. However, Durham election officials said the late reporting of results was caused by a technical problem that forced them to enter the results from voting machines by hand.
The Durham County elections board turned down McCrory’s request for a recount, but the State Board of Elections voted along party lines to order one.
In North Carolina, both state and county elections boards are appointed by the governor, and the governor’s party holds a majority.
McCrory’s campaign has indicated that he will concede to Cooper if the Durham results don’t change the outcome. He has already filed the paperwork for a statewide recount, although that request would be moot if Cooper’s margin holds.
Cooper’s campaign has been calling on McCrory to concede and bring to an end the three-week drama over who will lead the Tar Heel State.
“It’s clear there is no path to victory for Governor McCrory,” said Cooper campaign manager Trey Nix in a statement posted on Facebook. “It’s time for Governor McCrory to accept the election results and respect the will of the voters.”
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.
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.