The bigger threat to NC election integrity? So far, it’s McCrory

The Observer editorial board

State Board of Elections members Joshua Malcolm, left, and A. Grant Whitney Jr. at a September meeting.
State Board of Elections members Joshua Malcolm, left, and A. Grant Whitney Jr. at a September meeting. tlong@newsobserver.com

In an emergency meeting in Raleigh on Sunday, the State Board of Elections did precisely what North Carolinians want from officials tasked with protecting the integrity of their votes.

The board declined a request from Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign to assume jurisdiction over election protests in dozens of N.C. counties – a move that would have interrupted an already lengthy process to resolve those protests.

The board instead decided to meet Tuesday to issue legal guidelines that would allow counties to do their work but make consistent rulings.

The board did take jurisdiction in one county, Bladen, where a Democratic voter turnout group may have helped voters fill out absentee ballots without signing a required disclosure.

The decisions were prudent. They were made, for the most part, without histrionics. It’s the kind of deliberate thoughtfulness voters need in a governor’s race that was separated by less than 7,000 votes Monday.

If only we saw the same coming from the governor’s campaign and its supporters.

Instead, McCrory’s campaign – led by spokesman Ricky Diaz – seemed intent last week on creating the impression that the election has been tainted by widespread voter fraud. “With each passing day, we discover more and more cases of voting fraud and irregularities,” Diaz said in a statement last week. He neglected to mention the Republican-led election boards that have rejected McCrory’s protests in several counties thus far.

McCrory campaign manager Russell Peck went even further, saying that “We may also have uncovered the real reason Roy Cooper fought so hard against efforts to prevent voter fraud as attorney general.” Peck, of course, had no evidence to back up such a charge.

On Sunday, state budget director Andrew Heath tried a different approach, suggesting on Twitter that something sinister might be happening in Durham County: “Heard that Durham Co, US Census, & NCSBE #s show Durham 18+ pop= 231k but Durham registered voters= 232k. Can someone explain?”

People quickly did, clarifying Heath’s numbers, but it’s troubling that a state budget director wouldn’t do his own research before making such an incendiary public statement.

Even Republican State Board of Elections member Rhonda Amoroso got in on the eyebrow-raising Sunday. “To me, it appears, and it may appear to folks in the public that we have a systemic issue of voter fraud,” she said.

Perhaps Amoroso, along with the McCrory campaign, can help clear things up by answering these two questions: How many cases of actual, intentional voter fraud have been documented thus far? How many total votes would be affected by the election protests that are still to be investigated?

Thus far, neither number approaches Cooper’s lead in the race.

Until it does, we recommend that the McCrory campaign let county boards of elections do their jobs. Roy Cooper, who started declaring himself “Governor-elect” Monday, might want to tap on the brakes a bit, too.

We also expect the General Assembly to resist meddling in this election. Because up to this point, the biggest threat to the intregity of the governor’s race – and to the credibility of democracy in North Carolina – is the campaign that’s losing.