Durham Elections Chairman Defends Vote Count; Recount Still Possible

Nov 15, 2016

The state Republican Party's general counsel has filed a complaint contesting election day returns in Durham County. A tally of more than 90,000 votes there late on election night led to a narrow lead for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory (pictured here with his wife).
Credit Catie Ball / WUNC

Durham County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Brian defended his department against allegations of inaccuracy Tuesday.

A complaint filed by the state Republican Party’s general counsel last Friday accuses the board of “malfeasance” in its tallying of votes on Election Day.

The counting of more than 90,000 votes in Durham late on Nov. 8 resulted in a 5,000-vote lead for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory. These votes had to be manually counted because of technical issues at their originating precincts.

The complaint filed by N.C. GOP attorney and Durham resident Thomas Stark claims that these technical issues caused errors in the tabulating of the 90,000-plus votes, and that the votes should be recounted.

Durham Board Chairman Bill Brian told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that he had not seen any evidence to support these claims.

“As of today, and I say this absolutely with no hesitance, we have seen no evidence whatsoever that there's any inaccuracy or problem with any of the returns reported on Election Day,” said Brian, a Republican.

Each county elections board in North Carolina consists of two Republicans and one Democrat.

The board in Durham is holding a hearing on Wednesday morning to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the complaint to necessitate a second hearing.   

“If there is any basis at all for this, then we'll probably move forward,” Brian said. “But I can't really say, because we haven't heard what's going to be said tomorrow.”

Apart from the hearing scheduled for Wednesday, the board will meet Thursday evening to review provisional ballots. Those are the ballots cast by voters who visited polls during extended hours, didn’t have registrations on file or voted at the wrong precinct.

Elections staff around the state are in the process of determining which of 58,000-plus provisional ballots are valid and should be counted. Staff recommendations must then be approved or amended by local boards of election before the eligible votes are counted.

Some analysts, in addition to McCrory’s campaign, say that provisional ballots will determine the outcome of the race for governor.

Friday is the deadline for submitting final vote counts to the State Board of Elections. If Cooper’s lead is less than 10,000 votes after that point, McCrory may request a recount.