North Carolina, United States (ProPublica) – Pat McCrory alleges improper counting, dead people and felons swung the election for Democrat Roy Cooper. Cooper won by fewer than 10,000 votes.
While much of the country debates President-elect Donald Trump’s baseless claim that millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election, the Republican governor of North Carolina is attempting to use an accusation of voter fraud to hold on to his office. After losing by less than 10,000 votes, Gov. Pat McCrory has refused to concede, alleging improper vote counting, dead people and felons swung the vote for his Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Roy Cooper.
McCrory has indicated he will request a statewide recount, which he is allowed to do as long as Cooper’s margin remains under 10,000 votes.
But so far, McCrory’s allegations of fraud have been rejected by the election boards across the state. In North Carolina, the governor appoints five members of the statewide board, which then appoints members of the 100 local boards. On Monday, the state board ruled that local boards could only toss disputed votes if there were enough of them to determine the outcome of the election at a local level.
There has also been a lot of talk that the Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature might intervene and declare the race for McCrory. While they’ve not said definitively whether they will do so, House Speaker Tim Moore didn’t rule it out in a recent interview with The News & Observer.
Several media organizations have pointed out that state law explicitly denies the courts the ability to review such a decision, but UC Irvine law professor and voting expert Rick Hasen points out on his blog that this would not preclude federal courts from doing so.
“If there is clear evidence both that Roy Cooper got more votes in North Carolina, with no plausible basis to claim that fraud infected the result (and by all indications so far, both of these facts are true),” he writes, “it could well be both a Due Process and Equal Protection Clause violation for the North Carolina legislature on a partisan basis to consider a ‘contest’ and overturn the results and hand them to Pat McCrory.”
McCrory has accused 43 people in the state of voting illegally, saying they were barred from casting ballots because they were felons. Clearly, that’s not enough votes to make up the gap with Cooper. Plus, it turns out 18 of those accused were not actually felons. Some were cases of mistaken identity; others were serving misdemeanor sentences, which does not impact the ability to vote in the state.
Durham County has been the hotspot of the allegations. On election night, Cooper was trailing McCrory until 90,000 votes from Durham came in late. Issues with the electronic roll books had delayed the opening of many polling stations in the county, and the local elections board kept the precincts open late to make up for the lost time. Officials say there were no indications of irregularities in the counting process.
The Durham County Election Board rejected a protest filed by a McCrory supporter, who alleged officials had committed “malfeasance” by using inaccurate ballot machines for counting. The state board of elections will hear an appeal on that ruling today, and if it’s unsuccessful McCrory says he’s prepared to withdraw his request for a statewide recount.
But even if he does, the race may not be over.
Francis X. De Luca, the founder of conservative think tank The Civitas Institute, has filed suit against the North Carolina State Board of Elections about the state’s same-day registration process. In the suit, De Luca claims the earliest these applications can be verified is Dec. 7, and estimates that 3,000 of them will be considered invalid. He has asked a federal court to delay the final vote count in order to allow the verification process to “run its course.”
In 2012, a review of voter registrations found that 2.44 percent of same-day registrations did not pass muster during verification, and that process occasionally was not finished when the ballots were counted.
Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina told The Charlotte Observer that same-day registration was “just as reliable if not more reliable than the regular registration process,” and that Republicans “disproportionately” used the option in 2016. The option allows minorities and voters under 30 years old, who are more transient than the average voter, to easily change their addresses and vote at the same time.
McCrory has now delayed a hearing on this case, after rejecting the attorneys the Board of Elections selected for its defense. McCrory’s campaign has not responded to an email requesting comment.