Gov. Pat McCrory, trailing in a close race for re-election behind Attorney General Roy Cooper, claims there was “malfeasance” in tabulating votes in Durham County and “irregularities” reported around the state.
Cooper’s campaign said nothing improper happened in Durham, and accused McCrory of trying to undermine the election.
A formal protest filed Saturday with the Durham County Board of Elections calls for a recount of disputed votes there. About 90,000 votes weren’t counted until late on Election Day. Durham officials said it was due to malfunctioning equipment that led to a backlog, and that it had no impact on the votes cast.
The protest was filed by Thomas Stark, who is the general counsel for the N.C. GOP, and announced by McCrory’s campaign.
McCrory’s campaign staff said on Saturday that those ballots came from at least five early voting sites and one general election site in Durham County and appear to have been tabulated from corrupted memory cards. The cards could not be properly read by the system and the computers “experienced a critical error,” according to the campaign.
“What transpired in Durham County is extremely troubling and no citizen can have confidence in the results at this point in time,” said Jason Torchinsky, chief legal counsel for the Pat McCrory Committee Legal Defense Fund. “The Durham County Board of Elections has a history of mishandling elections and it is unfortunate that this one appears to be no different.”
“The McCrory campaign is now using NCGOP counsel to attack the Republican controlled board of elections in a desperate attempt to undermine election results,” Cooper spokesman Jamal Little said. “The facts are McCrory’s appointees were the ones who administered the election and reported the results. Any claims of ‘malfeasance’ are nothing more than a desperate attempt by the McCrory campaign to overturn results of an election they have lost.”
McCrory is trailing Cooper by about 5,000 votes. He can call for a recount so long as the margin between them remains less than 10,000 votes.
But there are more than 58,000 provisional ballots and a smaller number of absentee ballots that have yet to be determined to be eligible and counted. The results of that count won’t be known until Friday.
McCrory’s campaign team began questioning the late count of votes in Durham on Election Day, after those votes put Cooper ahead in the running tally.
Both campaigns have hired attorneys and are soliciting financial contributions to help them challenge or defend the outcome of the election, which may not be known until the end of the month or later.
McCrory’s announcement says it is typical for county boards to forward copies of protests to the state board before it issues a formal response. Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections, issued this statement:
“Our agency is committed to doing everything necessary to ensure voters in Durham County and all North Carolinians can be confident in election results. Our investigative and administrative teams support county officials while taking seriously all complaints regarding the elections process.”
Ricky Diaz, McCrory’s campaign spokesman, retorted the Democratic response Saturday night:
“For decades, Cooper and the Democrats have turned a blind eye to potential and actual voter fraud, so it’s no surprise that they're doing it again. It's the Republicans who are actually doing something about it.”