The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Wednesday approved a request for a machine recount of more than 90,000 early vote ballots in Durham County, where data were entered manually late on Election Day after machine issues.
When the county added the early vote ballots to the tally, Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper took the lead over Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in the governor’s race, and McCrory’s campaign argued that the “irregularities” warranted a recount.
The state elections board voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the recount, with Republican members of the board agreeing that adding more than 90,000 votes late on election night constitutes an “irregularity,” according to the News and Observer.
“What harm would it do to scan these votes and count them?” James Baker, a Republican member of the state board said, according to the News and Observer. “It’s not likely to change anything. There was enough of an irregularity to make people wonder.”
The Durham County elections board had dismissed Republicans’ request for a recount, prompting Thomas Stark, the lawyer who filed the complaint, to appeal to the state board. In his appeal, Stark alleged that there were “a number of anomalies” in Durham County. He claimed that there were issues with provisional ballots, votes cast by dead people, and unverified voter registrations from voters to voted on the same day that they registered.
The complaint in Durham County is one of just two complaints left filed by Republicans. The state elections board on Monday effectively tossed dozens of protests with an order directing counties to table any complaints regarding voter eligibility. The state board will only address those challenges if they encompass enough votes to change the outcome of the election, and it does not appear that those challenges would be enough to swing the race to McCrory. The state elections board is also still investigating absentee ballots in Bladen County that Republicans allege were improperly filled out.
Over the weekend, McCrory’s campaign said that if a recount in Durham County “provides the same results as earlier posted,” the campaign could drop its request for a statewide recount. However, McCrory may no longer have the option to ask for a recount. As of Thursday morning, Cooper led McCrory by more than 10,000 votes, the threshold for requesting a recount. Three counties have yet to certify their vote totals, so that margin is not final.
Dallas Woodhouse, the chair of the state Republican party, told reporters after the board’s meeting that he hopes the Durham County recount will resolve the contested election quickly.
“Today is a great day for democracy in North Carolina,” he said, according to the News and Observer. “We believe this will help us to conclude the process in a very short amount of time. The voters of North Carolina now have an opportunity to have full and complete confidence in the results that came out of Durham County.”
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.