The results of two statewide races are still up in the air nearly two weeks after Election Day as protests and questions of voter fraud linger over the county canvassing process.
Though the deadline for counties to submit their official voting tallies passed on Friday, the official canvasses were delayed due to the elections protests and a recent court decision, State Board of Elections Public Information Officer Pat Gannon said.
Without official county canvasses the state cannot complete its canvass on Nov. 29, and may be delayed in filing official election results for the state.
Until official results are filed the race for governor and state auditor will not be decided, as the race between Gov. Pat McCrory and challenger Roy Cooper is separated by about 5,000 votes and the race for state auditor between incumbent Beth Wood and former FBI agent Chuck Stuber is only separated by about 3,000 votes.
On Sunday state election officials declined a request from McCrory’s campaign to step in and take over election disputes across the state, but unanimously voted to step in and take over jurisdiction of the Bladen County protest, where a complaint alleges that a handful of people may have signed and filled out roughly 150 absentee ballots.
Campaign manager Russell Peck wrote the state board late last week lobbying the board to step in and rule on the protests, rather than the county boards of elections individually deciding the issues, to ensure consistent rulings across the state.
The State Board of Elections met by phone to vote on whether to step in on the disputes.
The majority Republican five-member board voted not to take over jurisdiction of at least 50 protests across 35 counties, only stepping in to the Bladen County dispute.
Most current protests allege some votes shouldn’t be counted because the voter died before Election Day, is a convicted felon or voted in multiple locations and at least six protests allege absentee fraud, according to the Associated Press.
The board members decided they wanted local boards to hear evidence and make decisions but the local rulings could still be appealed to the state board.
The state board did agree it would provide legal guidance to county boards considering protests and scheduled a meeting for Tuesday to discuss what exactly that would look like.
In Bladen County, McCrory’s team filed an election protest over at least 167 provisional ballots that apparently were filled out by only seven people.
In addition, there are more ballots in question in the county.
There are about 400 ballots with write-in candidate Franklin Graham’s name and about 275 envelopes under scrutiny.
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.
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 team has said the protests have unveiled potentially widespread fraud that needs to be addressed before all votes are tallied, but the outcome of the protests likely will not sway the election toward McCrory according to Cooper’s camp.
On Friday McCrory’s camp put out a statement saying that, “More than eighty counties have postponed their canvas meetings until next week, so let’s be clear: the counting is not complete and there is still no certified outcome. Roy Cooper is making presumptuous statements based on piecemeal results from a handful of Democrat-leaning counties in order to deflect attention away from serious voter fraud concerns that are emerging across the state. The real question people should be asking is, ‘Why is Roy Cooper fighting to count the votes of dead people and felons?'”
Cooper released a video on Sunday where he responded saying, “Gov. 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.”