Gov. Pat McCrory’s offer to withdraw his demand for a statewide recount of the votes cast in the general election in exchange for a hand count of Durham County ballots remained unresolved Sunday.
The State Board of Elections held an emergency meeting by phone on Sunday afternoon to consider a request for an expedited appeal of ballot tabulation concerns that the Durham County elections board had rejected. The meeting was called after McCrory’s campaign sent out a news release Saturday night proposing that deal, but that proposal wasn’t on the agenda.
Board members briefly discussed news accounts of the McCrory offer, but were informed by legal staff that they had not received anything in writing.
The state board also on Sunday declined to act on the appeal of the Durham County ruling rejecting a protest that election workers and malfunctioning computers mishandled some 94,000 votes. The state board said it could not act on the appeal until it had received a full record of a hearing the county board held.
State elections officials will press Durham County to provide as soon as possible a transcript of the hearing, a written order from the hearing and any evidence that was presented. Once that material is sent to the state, board members want to have enough time to review it.
“We need to push Durham to get some certainty into our political processes here,” said board Chairman Grant Whitney.
That could postpone the matter until late in the week.
Besides the tabulation issues, protests have been filed in Durham County over alleged irregularities and those concerns could also end up before the state board. Similar complaints have been filed in about half the state’s 100 counties in a coordinated effort by Republican officials. Most of those complaints have been rejected by GOP-controlled county boards, and there has not been evidence of widespread voter fraud.
All but about 19 counties — the most populous ones — have certified their election results. Candidates within a 10,000-vote margin in statewide races can demand recounts up to two days after the final canvassing is complete.
Durham County has been a focus of attention since Attorney General Roy Cooper surged ahead of McCrory on election night after the delayed Durham votes came in. McCrory campaign officials were suspicious of that from the beginning, and have continued to insist it’s important to answer all the questions that have been raised about Durham. They note that an unrelated elections matter there in the spring has led to a State Bureau of Investigation probe.
Cooper has maintained a lead of about 7,700 votes, but provisional and absentee ballots are still being reviewed in those outstanding counties.
Besides the protests and Durham tabulation matters, a federal lawsuit was filed last week to scrutinize votes cast by same-day registration voters. A hearing on that suit is scheduled for Friday.
The state elections board went into closed session on Sunday and then in public voted to retain an outside law firm — Brooks, Pierce — to defend the state elections office.