Durham Board of Elections To Hold Special Hearing

Nov 16, 2016

Roy Cooper is in the lead in the gubernatorial race, though only by a slim margin.
Credit Brian Batista / WUNC

A special hearing will be held Friday at the Durham County Board of Elections to examine its handling of ballots on Election Night.

The hearing comes after Governor Pat McCrory's campaign filed a formal protest last weekend. On Election Night, the governor appeared to be on the cusp of re-election, but 90,000 votes had yet to come in from heavily Democratic Durham County. They allowed challenger Roy Cooper to take the lead.

At the hearing, the governor's attorneys may present any evidence that they think shows the ballots were not properly counted. The Durham elections board has said there were no improprieties on election night.

Jeff Tiberii, the WUNC Capitol Bureau chief, answered a few questions on the subject:

Q: This week, boards of elections are verifying provisional ballots. What does that mean?
A: There are about 60,000 ballots cast that were not initially counted. This can happen for any number of reasons, including issues with registration, or if people voted in the wrong precinct and so on. History tell us that about half of these ballots will be thrown out. Generally, provisional ballots tilt to the left, or simply mirror what happened in the general election. Still, in a close race like this, they have to go back and make sure they are counted.

Q: What legal challenges are being mounted as of now?
A: There were issues related to some people who registered to vote at the DMV. There was a breakdown in communication between the state DMV and local boards of elections. Some people – we don’t know how many – but some people registered to vote at the state DMV, but that information was not shared with the county boards of elections. In addition, there could also see more legal challenges.

Q: Who sits on these boards of elections?
A: The governor has the authority to appoint local boards of elections. In North Carolina, the boards in all 100 counties are comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat. The state board of elections is split 3-2 in favor of Republicans.

Q: After provisional ballots are verified and counted, we could see a recount in the governor’s race. What’s the process for that?
A: The deadline for county results to be certified is Nov. 18. The state hopes to certify those results by Nov. 29. However, individual counties can request an extension, and that could very well send this process into December. If, after the provisional count, the margin between McCrory and Cooper is less than 10,000, whoever is trailing can request a recount.

Q: What about the timeline?
A: It could be pretty short if it’s just a recount. With some more votes being counted, the lead for Roy Cooper has actually increased, but as long as the winning margin is within 10,000 votes, Pat McCrory could call for a recount, so it’s likely we will see that. If there are other legal challenges, it could drag out longer.

Q: There have been reports that the General Assembly could, at some point, get involved. How so and what would that look like?
A: I’ll give you the words of Ricky Diaz, who is the spokesman for the McCrory campaign. He says this is a media creation. He says that this is a long shot. And I agree with him. Nobody at this point is giving this too much credence for a likely path for this race. When this happened 12 years ago, there were thousands of contested ballots, as well as some missing ballots that surfaced.