Pat McCrory, it appears, is going through the five stages of grief. First came denial, then anger. Right now he’s in the bargaining stage. That, thankfully, means that depression and finally acceptance should not be far behind.
Such a cycle may be normal, but what the governor has done since the Nov. 8 election is anything but. In a razor-close race, he has gone way beyond asking that every vote be counted before a winner is declared. He and his fellow scaremongers have disrespected democracy and honest election workers of both parties while slandering innocent North Carolina citizens by recklessly accusing them of felonies. In doing so, he has further tarnished his already-stained legacy and will be remembered always for the lack of grace he showed in what may be his final election.
His behavior is so incomprehensible – he fights in the face of virtually certain defeat – that it suggests there is an alternative goal. Like President-elect Donald Trump’s, McCrory’s creation of phantom election cheats tills the ground for future voter suppression efforts. Flimsy though the allegations are, they are all legislative leaders would need in their efforts to justify politically motivated restrictions. Witness N.C. GOP leader Dallas Woodhouse’s statement Monday night, in which he intoned voter problems “will still linger long after the current results are certified.”
Let us be clear: There is no widespread voter fraud in North Carolina or America. In a state with 6.5 million registered voters, there may be a handful of wrongly registered felons or overzealous get-out-the-vote volunteers. But there is no evidence that thousands of N.C. voters are voting in two states, or that legions of dead people are voting. Almost half of the 43 people McCrory’s camp accused of voting as a felon were not felons at all. And the 101-year-old World War II veteran living in a Greensboro senior living home did not vote in two states, no matter what McCrory’s campaign alleges. There’s certainly not enough fraud, in any case, for McCrory to make up the more than 9,000 votes he would need to overtake Democrat Roy Cooper.
So grasping for hope, he bargains: After initially asking for a statewide recount, McCrory now says he’ll surrender that if Durham County produces similar results in a hand recount of 94,000 early votes.
Such a recount would probably just widen the gap between McCrory and Cooper. But if it will erase doubts among McCrory supporters and allow the state to move on to its new governor, why not? All voters should want an accurate count, and if Cooper’s lead remains less than 10,000, McCrory has the right to seek a recount statewide.
What he doesn’t have a right to do is malign innocent voters with claims that he either knows are mirages or doesn’t care enough to vet. The state board of elections – which, like all 100 county boards, is majority Republican – issued an order Monday effectively dismissing all 52 of McCrory’s complaints.
They know voter fraud is not a real problem in North Carolina. And, down the road, voters shouldn’t allow the myth that McCrory foments to provide cover to overzealous lawmakers – in Raleigh or in Washington.