North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) campaign on Saturday evening announced that if the state Elections Board approves a recount of about 90,000 early votes in Durham County, the governor may drop his statewide recount request.
Trailing Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper in the governor’s race by more than 7,000 votes as of Sunday, McCrory has claimed that the 2016 election was fraught with fraud, promoting dozens of ballot protests filed by Republicans alleging that votes were cast by people who were dead, who had already voted, or who were convicted felons. The campaign has also claimed that progressive groups may have improperly filled out absentee ballots.
McCrory has refused to concede until the protests have been addressed and filed a request for a recount last week, before all counties in the state finished certifying their vote totals.
After several county election boards rejected protests alleging voter fraud, the McCrory campaign on Saturday focused on early vote ballots in Durham County, where data with more than 90,000 votes were entered manually late on Election Day due to machine issues. The Durham County election board rejected a protest filed by a lawyer for state Republicans, Thomas Stark, ruling that there was not enough evidence of “malfeasance,” as Stark had claimed, to warrant a recount.
Stark filed an appeal with the state elections board on Saturday, asking them to approve a recount of the more than 90,000 early vote ballots that were tabulated late on Election Day.
“It was concerning to learn that the Durham County Board decided to not approve attorney Tom Stark’s protest to recount the early vote totals from election night. The malfunctions and irregularities in Durham have been extremely troubling to this campaign and the people of North Carolina, and the State Board confirmed several errors,” McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck said in a Saturday statement announcing Stark’s appeal. “We are now left with no other position but to request the State Board of Elections expeditiously order a full recount of Durham county early vote totals. Once this occurs, we can all move towards a conclusion of this process.”
In the Saturday statement, the McCrory campaign said that if a recount in Durham County “provides the same results as earlier posted, the McCrory Committee will be prepared to withdraw its statewide recount request in the Governors race.”
The McCrory campaign cited a state Bureau of Investigations probe into how Durham County tabulated provisional ballots in the March primary and claimed that the county has “a long history of voting problems.”
In his appeal to the state Elections Board requesting a recount, Stark claimed that there are “a number of anomalies” in Durham County. He said that there may have been issues with provisional ballots, alleged that felons cast votes, and said that those who registered to vote on the same day that they voted may not have all had their registrations verified.
The state Elections Board met via phone on Sunday but said that it cannot take up Stark’s appeal until the Durham County elections board provides a full transcript of its hearing and other records regarding the protest, according to the News and Observer. The board also said that it had not received in writing McCrory’s offer to drop a statewide recount if a Durham County recount does not change the vote tally. The board said that it may schedule a hearing for the appeal on Thursday, though nothing is set in stone, according to WRAL.
Several counties in the state have yet to submit their canvass of the votes, which will likely delay a recount and the state Elections Board’s ability to certify the statewide election results. A few ballots have been thrown out as a result of the protests alleging voter fraud filed by Republicans, but many of the protests have been dismissed, according to WRAL.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that election workers counted more than 90,000 ballots by hand late on election tonight. The election workers had to manually enter data from ballot tabulators’ paper tapes because they were unable to read data from memory cards. We regret the error.