NC Gubernatorial Drama: Recount Called For Durham's Last Minute Ballots

NC Gubernatorial Drama: Recount Called For Durham's Last Minute Ballots
FILE - In this June 24, 2016 file photo, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory speaks during a candidate forum in Charlotte, N.C. North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers have legalized needle and syringe exchange programs across the state to combat a heroin epidemic law enforcement officials say is reaching critical levels. McCrory on Monday, July 11 approved the law despite objections from some conservative representatives who say such exchange programs only facilitate addictions. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The drama and the tension surrounding North Carolina’s gubernatorial Battle Royale may be drawing to a close, at long last.

It all comes down to Durham, and those 94,000 votes – either “found” or “forgotten” until the last moments of the night, on November 8.

The North Carolina State Board of Election met on Wednesday to decide on whether a recount of those 94,000 ballots was in order. By a partisan vote of 3 – 2, the decision by Durham County’s Board of Election was overturned, and a recount of the 94,000 mystery ballots was ordered.

It is unclear why the county BoE dismissed calls to recount. Not only does the board have a Republican majority (as do all 100 counties in the state), but they have a history of mishandling votes, so it would seem caution was in order.

Durham County is currently under investigation by the SBI, and facing a lawsuit, based on their gross mishandling of the March primary, which saw some votes being counted twice, along with other irregularities.

They actually had to hold a special “do-over” election.

According to reports out of Durham, the election confusion had to do with software problems with five early voting machines and one on the day of the election. Counting was delayed and 94,000 votes emerged at 11:45pm on November 8, overtaking the 52,000 vote lead of McCrory and putting Cooper ahead.

During the hearing Wednesday, Thomas Stark, the NC GOP general counsel who filed the protest, and Cooper attorney Kevin Hamilton made arguments and rebuttals before the elections board, rehashing many of the same stances that led up to the Durham dismissal on Nov. 18.

“I think the board in considering this today has the authority to do a discretionary recount at any time,” Stark told the board.

Hamilton countered that the election night hiccup was “a shortcoming of the software” and the Durham elections board “did exactly what they should have done and they did it in a bipartisan way.”

Stark, pressed on whether any substantial evidence of miscounted votes exists, said he had none, but emphasized the question of possible irregularities. Recounting could be done in as little as seven hours using 10 machines, he told the board.

And it’s a long shot that anything will change, but for the sake of integrity, it needs to happen.

With the counties that have already turned in their final counts, Cooper is said to have doubled his lead from election night to just over 10,000 by Wednesday.

In calling for the recount, the three Republican board members, Board Chair Grant Whitney Jr., secretary Rhonda Amoroso, and member James Baker all agreed to the recount. Democrats Maja Kricker and Joshua Malcolm voted against a recount.

Amoroso, before the vote, referred to other problems with the Durham elections board, including an ongoing but unrelated SBI investigation. There is “a dark cloud over Durham County,” she said. Baker and Amoroso believe a recount is unlikely to change the numbers much, but contend the full vetting is needed to assure voters nothing has been compromised.

The calls for McCrory to concede began on the night of the election and have only grown louder as the battle has raged on. Protesters have been gathering outside of the Governor’s mansion nightly, hoping their uncivil idiocy will drive him out and into the streets, I suppose.

Cooper has even assembled a transition team, in anticipation.

The hope is that the election results can be certified by December 9, at the latest, but it will require determining how many machines to use, getting those machines calibrated and prepared, and then going through with the actual recount.

Here’s the kicker: If the final count puts either of them less than 10,000 ahead, the other can still ask for a full recount.

I’m not ready to speak doom-and-gloom over this race. I’ve been holding on to hope for a dramatic McCrory victory, and I will continue to do so until the very end.

It really is that important.

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