Elections

Will recount make a difference in NC governor’s race? History offers a clue.

McCrory: 'We're going to check everything'

Governor Pat McCrory tells supporters that they will go through the process of checking everything, including provisional ballots, after his challenger Roy Cooper edged ahead by a slim margin late on election night.
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Governor Pat McCrory tells supporters that they will go through the process of checking everything, including provisional ballots, after his challenger Roy Cooper edged ahead by a slim margin late on election night.

A likely recount in the North Carolina’s governor’s race may be the state’s highest profile in recent memory, but there have been other close races that weren’t decided until days after voting ended.

Democrat Roy Cooper leads Republican incumbent Pat McCrory by 4,980 votes with all precincts reporting, though there are still absentee ballots arriving at county election offices.

Out of about 4.66 million votes cast, Cooper’s lead is a little more than a tenth of a percent.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper and family relish in Cooper’s claimed victory over incumbent Governor Pat McCrory during the Democratic celebration on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at the Raleigh Marriott City Center in Raleigh, N.C.

It’s likely McCrory will call for a recount. There have been other large recounts in congressional races, but the results haven’t changed, and the final vote tallies have barely moved.

The request for a recount must be received to the state by Nov. 22.

In Florida during the 2000 presidential election, the recount produced a number of different results as small pieces of paper ballots fell off as they passed through a counting machine.

Mecklenburg elections supervisor Michael Dickerson said no North Carolina counties use such paper ballots with “chads.”

He said he doesn’t expect counties like Mecklenburg that use electronic voting equipment to see changes during a recount. Some counties use paper ballots where voters fill in their choice in a circle, but Dickerson said he doesn’t expect any significant change there either.

▪ In 2006, Democrat Larry Kissell asked for a recount in his race against former Rep. Robin Hayes, a Republican, in the state’s 8th Congressional District race.

Kissell trailed Hayes by 329 votes out of about 121,000 cast. He gained only two votes during the first phase of a recount, and then conceded the race.

▪ In 2010, there was a recount for the state’s 2nd Congressional district.

Democrat Rep. Bobby Etheridge trailed Republican Renee Elmers by 1,498 votes out of nearly 190,000 cast. Etheridge requested a recount after the election found they were separated by less than 1 percent of all votes.

The recount didn’t change the result.

▪ In 2012, candidate David Rouzer asked for a recount in his race against U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre in the 7th Congressional District race. He was behind by 655 votes.

McIntyre only lost one vote in the recount, bringing the revised split to 168,695 for McIntyre and 168,041 for Rouzer – a difference of 654.

In the governor’s race this year, the next phase is to count absentee ballots. The State Board of Elections Office said they must be postmarked on or before Nov. 8, and they must be received by Nov. 14. Overseas and military ballots will be accepted through Nov. 17.

In Mecklenburg, Dickerson expects he’ll receive 1,300 absentee ballots by the deadline.

As the absentee ballots are reviewed, counties must also conduct conduct a “hand-to-eye” count of ballots in randomly selected precincts and early-voting locations to make sure the machines tallied them correctly. Those must be done in public.

Dickerson said that’s a “sample audit.” He said Mecklenburg’s sample audit with electronic voting machines has never found a discrepancy between the electronic result and the result printed on paper.

The board of elections in each county must also meet to determine if provisional ballots submitted by voters during early voting and on Election Day are OK. Provisional ballots are cast when someone’s registration does not appear in the list of registered voters.

State law allows for a recount in statewide contests if the vote difference is 10,000 votes or less.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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