Durham County must complete a recount of 90,000 votes by 7 p.m. Monday, according to a State Board of Elections order issued late Thursday.
The state board voted 3-2 along party lines Wednesday to order a machine recount of votes cast during early voting in Durham County, backing a request from Republicans and Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign.
The three Republicans on the board voted for the recount, saying that the late addition of the 90,000 votes to the statewide tally on election night constituted an “irregularity.” The state board’s decision overturned the Durham County Board of Elections, also controlled by Republicans, which had rejected the recount request as baseless.
The recount could finally settle the governor’s race between McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The recount order says that Durham County interim election director Kate Cosner must submit a written plan for the machine recount by noon Friday, and state elections officials can then modify the plan.
Durham must finish the recount and submit the final election results to the State Board of Elections by 7 p.m. Monday, according to the order.
The state’s timeline requires a speedier recount than county officials had initially expected.
Earlier Thursday, Durham County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Brian said he didn’t yet have a timeline for the recount. “We’re still trying to develop a plan” with county and staff election staffers, he said, adding that he expected the recount to occur by the end of next week.
Election officials have said that the process of running the 90,000 ballots through tabulating machines would take about eight hours once workers can begin.
Once completed, the Durham recount could prompt a concession from McCrory if the vote count doesn’t change substantially. His campaign said before Wednesday’s State Board of Elections meeting that he wouldn’t seek a statewide recount if the board ordered the Durham recount.
“We are pleased the State Board of Elections has recognized the irregularities in Durham County and we will respect whatever the results show,” campaign manager Russell Peck wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday night. “We ask that this is done immediately.”
Peck urged supporters to call or email the Durham County Board of Elections and “tell them to act immediately.”
Cooper’s campaign, meanwhile, emailed its supporters to say the recount is an example of McCrory “delaying the inevitable,” and that the governor has “no path to victory.”
As of Thursday evening, Cooper led by 10,267 votes in the latest tally on the State Board of Elections website. Three counties – Bladen, Columbus, and Davidson – still listed incomplete results on the website but were expected to finalize their vote counts by the end of the week.
The State Board of Elections has scheduled a Saturday meeting to resolve an investigation of absentee ballots in Bladen County, but that probe only involves a few hundred ballots and is unlikely to affect the outcome of the governor’s race.
A second Bladen County complaint was added to the meeting agenda Thursday. It was filed by a Democrat, Kenneth Register, who lost a county commission race and now wants either a new election in Bladen or a hand-eye recount there.
Register’s complaint claims that the election was flawed because a group forged and submitted absentee ballots, and that there were software glitches in voting equipment.
The Bladen County Board of Elections dismissed Register’s protest on Tuesday due to a lack of evidence, according to the Bladen Journal, but he has appealed the decision to the State Board of Elections.
A statewide recount is still expected in the race for state auditor, where Democratic incumbent Beth Wood leads Republican Chuck Stuber by 6,000 votes. That’s well within the 10,000 vote margin required to seek a recount, and Stuber has already filed his request.