The close North Carolina governor’s election has bogged down in recriminations, claims of voter fraud, and calls for a recount as the Republican incumbent refuses to concede weeks after the November 8 election..
The Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, who is behind Attorney General Roy Cooper by thousands of votes, has aggressively challenged returns and lodged a series of voter fraud claims, ranging from dead voters to felons casting ballots illegally.
Democrats have countered that the claims are undocumented and even shameful as they create ongoing uncertainty in the United States’ 9th largest state. They accuse McCrory of raising baseless claims to create an improbable scenario in which the Republican-controlled Legislature would hand him the victory they insist he lost at the polls.
North Carolina is a critical battleground state that Donald Trump won. The official election returns show Cooper winning by 6,000 votes in a state that Trump won by over 177,000 votes.
The election returns show a Libertarian candidate may have drawn some votes from the Republican governor:
Roy Cooper DEM 2,297,129 48.98%
Pat McCrory REP 2,290,906 48.84%
Lon Cecil LIB 102,263 2.18%
As of November 22, several weeks after the election, the race’s outcome was – at least according to Republicans – unclear.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Democrat, Cooper, Has Repeatedly Declared Himself the Winner
Cooper has insisted that he won the election. According to CNN, he calls himself the “governor-elect” in press releases and created a website to solicit resumes of people who want to join his administration.
“We’re hiring. The election is over — it’s time to get started building a North Carolina that works for everyone. Apply today,” the website proclaims.
Cooper’s campaign has labeled the voter fraud accusations “unfounded” and “shameful.”
2. The Republican, McCrory, Is Demanding a Recount
On November 22, McCrory announced that he was officially requesting a recount in the tight race. In his letter seeking a recount, McCrory wrote that “with serious concerns of potential voter fraud emerging across the state, it is becoming more apparent that a thorough recount is one way the people of North Carolina can have confidence in the results, process and system.”
Reuters said that a recount is considered mandatory in North Carolina in elections with margins under 10,000 votes after all counties are done with the canvassing process. The news service said the North Carolina returns were still being updated and, on November 22, Cooper led by 6,187 votes out of 4.7 million.
Fox News said canvassing of the votes was already slowed down by “Republican-led challenges in counties across the state.” McCrory has called for a recount even though all canvassing is not yet complete.
Some Democrats fear the recount is really designed to muddle the election results with so many questions that the Republican-controlled Legislature could ignite an obscure provision to give the race to McCrory. Slate Magazine says the law in question reads that the Legislature determines who is the highest vote-getter when “a contest arises out of the general election” relating “to the conduct or results of the election.”
The News Observer, a North Carolina newspaper, said in an editorial that the House Speaker didn’t appear “eager” for that outcome. The newspaper called on McCrory to concede.
3. McCrory & Republicans Have Raised the Prospect of Voter Fraud & Alleged ‘Irregularities’ in Many Counties
McCrory has alleged everything from fraudulent absentee voting to ballots with similar handwriting on them.
Slate says McCrory has “questioned votes in more than half of North Carolina’s counties.” The News Observer said county elections boards have started rejecting the raising of “alleged irregularities in 52 of the state’s 100 counties.” McCrory’s campaign has responded by asking the state board to take over the process from the county board, the newspaper said.
Complicating matters: Interest groups are starting to file lawsuits. On November 21, a conservative organization named Civitas Institute filed legal action asking federal courts “to require that the state Board of Elections refrain from certifying election results until it has finished verifying same-day registrants,” according to Fox News.
For example, the newspaper said, in Durham County, the county board refused a Republican Party official’s request for a hand count of ballots. For example, in Durham County, election software couldn’t “aggregate data from five cards” and a card had a battery problem so officials entered “information from ballot tabulators’ paper tapes,” said The News Observer.
The courts had restored same-day registration when overturning GOP voting legislation that critics said was designed to suppress voting, said Fox.
McCrory has also alleged that dead people, people who also voted in other states, and felons voted illegally, said Politico.
4. Elections Experts Say It’s Unlikely McCrory Will Be Able to Overturn the Results
McCrory faces a tough task; to win, he’d have to invalidate an entire county’s votes, experts told Politico, but Republican-controlled boards have been rejecting his challenges to hundreds of votes.
“There’s nothing to suspect that Pat McCrory’s supporters have been systematically disenfranchised,” North Carolina State University political science professor Steven Greene told CNN.
Democratic lawmakers have called on McCrory to concede, saying they don’t believe he can prevail even in a recount.
Cooper said it “would be irresponsible to wait any longer to tackle the issues we campaigned on across the state.”
5. McCrory Took a Controversial Stand on Transgender Issues that Some Think Hurt Him
McCrory controversially supported the so-called “bathroom bill” that prevented transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice. That bill led to boycotts of North Carolina. Slate Magazine called him “champion of the country’s most notorious anti-LGBTQ law.”
Mother Jones said the bill “ended up costing millions in lost revenue from sports and entertainment events and businesses that withdrew from the state.” North Carolina has also had major court battles over voter ID and other issues, says Mother Jones.
Politico said the federal courts “rolled back” a 2013 Voter Law signed by McCrory because it “illegally” suppressed votes of African-Americans.