With just hours to go until the state’s 100 counties are set to report their final vote totals, questions of voter integrity are still hanging over the boards of elections of at least two counties, while the candidates for the governorship and the office of the state auditor are waiting to see how the final votes will fall.
County boards of elections are scheduled to certify their own results at 11 a.m. on Nov. 18, the county canvass.
Candidates can demand a recount after the county canvass, but the request must be made before noon on Nov. 22, and only if the difference between the two candidates is less than 10,000 votes. All 100 counties would then perform their own recounts ahead of the state canvass Nov. 29.
In the race for governor, incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper are separated by about 5,000 votes. In the race for state auditor, incumbent Beth Wood was about 3,000 votes ahead of Republican challenger Chuck Stuber.
In Durham County, discussions will continue during a second hearing on Friday into whether the county board should count its paper ballots. The Durham County board agreed Wednesday, on a 2-1 party line vote, to hold an evidentiary hearing to consider a request to recount paper ballots from the general election.
The board voted 2-1 in favor of the hearing, with Republican members Bill Brian and Margaret Cox Griffin voting in favor of holding the hearing, and Democrat Dawn Baxton voting against it, according to the (Raleigh) News & Observer.
Brian said the concerns of Durham resident (and general counsel for the state Republican Party) Thomas Stark met the standard of probable cause to proceed to an evidentiary hearing.
Stark’s complaint contends the Durham County Board of Elections engaged in malfeasance with regard to ensuring the accuracy of votes counted on election night after Durham County elections officials manually entered information after they were unable to upload data from six cards that saved information from ballot tabulators.
After the hearing, Stark submitted a subpoena to the elections board asking for a copy of the tapes and memory cards from the six voting locations, which included five one-stop sites and one Election Day voting precinct. The subpoena also seeks information from across the county on how many people voted and how many cast provisional ballots.
A business systems analyst at the State Board of Elections reviewed the results from five of the cards, according to the N&O, and found discrepancies ranging from one extra vote in one countywide race to an extra 10 votes in one of the statewide races.
However there were no discrepancies found in the voting for the governor’s race. Stark pointed to the conflicting information as his evidence for a recount.
“It would seem that it would be a low bar,” Stark said. “If you have any disagreement in counts, it’s appropriate to check the count.”
In Bladen County, McCrory’s team has filed an election protest over at least 167 provisional ballots that were filled out by only seven people. In addition, there are more ballots in question.
Time constraints prevented the examiner from looking at all of the votes cast as straight Democratic Party ticket votes with similar handwriting, according to the N&O.
There are about 400 ballots with write-in candidate Franklin Graham’s name and about 275 envelopes under scrutiny.
Some of the people whose handwriting is under examination were paid by a local community association that receives N.C. Democratic Party funding to encourage voter turnout. While it is legal to help someone complete a ballot, that must be disclosed on the ballot and few if any such disclosures were made, according to the N&O.
Similar handwriting was also seen on absentee ballots.
McCrory’s campaign has made challenges in 11 more counties across the state: Durham, Franklin, Edgecombe, Guilford, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, Robeson, Vance, Wake, and Warren counties.
A final state canvass is scheduled to be completed Nov. 29.